Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), Canadian Animal Health Surveillance Network (CAHSN) Table-Top Exercise

March 2014

Project Summary

International Safety Research (ISR) established a series of detailed objectives for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA) National Foot-and-Mouth Disease “Operating Policy and Procedures” exercise. It was determined that to fully understand the utility of the Canadian Animal Health Surveillance Network (CAHSN) during an outbreak, the team would need to establish maximal capacities and an appropriate timeframe that these capacities could be sustained. In order to effectively address these problems, an extensive online questionnaire was conducted prior to a two day Table-Top Exercise (TTX) designed, organized and coordinated by ISR. A set of recommendations was generated on the basis of the findings of the questionnaire and the TTX. The recommendations were focussed on clarifying and communicating the expectations for the service provided to CFIA by the Canadian Animal Health Surveillance Network.

The CFIA has partnered with provincial and university veterinary diagnostic laboratories to improve early detection of foreign animal diseases (FAD) in Canada by establishing, through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), the Canadian Animal Health Surveillance Network (CAHSN), in order to support laboratory testing and reporting of results.

Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) is a highly contagious viral disease of cloven-hoofed mammals such as cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, deer, elk, antelope and buffalo. Canada has been free of FMD since 1952, but outbreaks continue to occur elsewhere in the world; including nations, such as the UK, that have been previously free of FMD for decades. The disease causes severe economic losses and results in widespread international trade restrictions against exports of animals and animal products from affected countries.

In order to effectively address highly complex problems of CAHSN’s capacity and sustainability, an online questionnaire was completed by the CASHN Laboratories in advance of conducting a 2-day Tabletop Exercise (TTX). The scenario for the TTX centred on a simulated FMD outbreak that started in Alberta and subsequently spread to both Ontario and British Columbia. The scenario presented a situation where laboratories would be required to conduct testing of 250,000 samples over a 3-month surveillance period.

The results of the TTX indicated that the CAHSN members are committed to conducting the testing that may be required by CFIA during an FMD outbreak and during the post-outbreak surveillance period. However, several gaps were identified that can be addressed within short-term and long-term timeframes that will enhance the capability, capacity and sustainability of the Network. Further, the key issues that will provide value for subsequent exercises were identified by the participants. A set of recommendations was generated that, if addressed as part of an improvement planning initiative, will enhance the capability, capacity and sustainability of the CAHSN.

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