When we consider the globalization of trade today and the unrelenting movement of people across the world, the potential for infectious pathogen spread has never been greater. This realization has resulted in a multi-layer approach of how to deal with preventing animal diseases and their spread around the globe.

The World Health Organization (WHO) with global representation has set minimum standards for countries to meet in reporting, preventing, containing and treating of major infectious animal diseases.

On a national level the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, under Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada, has named a number of infectious animal diseases as reportable diseases or Foreign Animal Diseases (FAD). They have put in place regulations (Health of Animals Act) and a whole set of procedures on how to handle these cases and how the infected animals and site are to be dealt with. The experience in recent years with cases of Avian Influenza in Canada and worldwide have helped them hone their processes in dealing with these types of diseases.

Provinces have also added prevalent contagious diseases in their region or province to their own list of reportable or Provincially Designated Diseases (PDD) like Nova Scotia who has listed Infectious laryngothracheitis in poultry as a PDD.

Both federal and provincial named diseases are very contagious and have the potential of causing extreme distress and mortality in infected animals and devastate whole sections of the animal industry if the pathogen is not confined quickly. These regulators, when an infected site is found, follow their regulations until the infected sites are deemed sanitized and clear of the infectious agent. These rules and regulations can be very restrictive for the whole industry during the disease emergency. The provincial governments provide Animal Health Programs which aids veterinarians in making farm visits and provide a Veterinary Services Laboratory for health monitoring and laboratory procedures that assist the farming community in maintaining the health of herds and flocks.

Livestock and poultry commodity groups have taken these disease threats very seriously and have implemented On-Farm Food Safety Assurance Programs which provide a minimum biosecurity standard for producers to meet to ensure healthy animals, good wholesome products and a quality, safe food source. As well industry stakeholders like feed mills, processors, hatcheries, etc. have implemented HACCP programs to help guarantee the safety of the products being produced. Regular auditing of facilities ensures that these programs remain current and are being maintained on a day to day basis.

Most animal commodity groups have partnered with their commodity stakeholders and federal and provincial governments to develop Disease Emergency Response Plans. The stakeholders involved include commercial and non-commercial animal production units where large and small production units come under the same regulatory oversight during an emergency. These plans lay out the steps for the producer and the industry to take when a disease emergency like Avian Influenza or Foot & Mouth outbreak. FAD’s like these would not only initiate some very restrictive processes for the animal industry, but would cause great concern and anxiety in the agricultural sector and the community at large.

Municipal governments have also become involved ensuring they are ready for any problems that could occur during a disease emergency. They are prepared to handle any side issues like business interruption that may affect large numbers of people as well as public anxiety and reaction as they perceive threatened by zoonotic diseases.

As you can see we all have some responsibility in keeping our animals healthy and prevent the transmission or spread of animal diseases. Last year’s episode with the H1N1 influenza virus has driven home that point to the public that these types of diseases cannot be ignored, but we can remain safe if we follow some basic biosecurity protocols.