In an effort to ensure Barbados and the Caribbean are fully prepared to cope in the event of an outbreak of any highly contagious animal disease, the Ministry of Agriculture’s Veterinary Services Department will host the local leg of a table-top simulation this Thursday, March 22.

The exercise will focus on improving communication and coordination, resource planning, preparedness and response if such an event were to occur in the region.

It will be held simultaneously in nine other countries – Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Haiti, Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, with participants linked together virtually through the use of web-based tools.??

The exercise will simulate the introduction of foot and mouth disease into the Caribbean. Foot and mouth disease is considered to be one of the most contagious diseases known to man, affecting cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs. It does not affect humans, and the meat and milk from infected animals are safe for consumption. However, it can result in substantial production losses and international trade restrictions.

Personnel from the Veterinary Services Department, stakeholders working in animal health, a national representative of the Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Response Agency, and other participants will be brought together to discuss priority actions and key roles in responding to a foot and mouth disease outbreak.

Several international organisations will participate in the simulation exercise, either as facilitators, evaluators, or subject matter experts, including the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA), the French Agricultural Research Centre for Development (CIRAD), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and the Pan American Health Organization.

The simulation will determine the protocols which should be established and activities undertaken when a highly contagious disease is introduced into the region. It will also explore the inter-agency communication and coordination mechanisms which would be used to control the disease.

Lessons learnt during this exercise will be shared with the CaribVET network at the next Steering Committee meeting, to be held at the CARICOM headquarters, Guyana, May 7 to 9. The meeting may pave the way for a future formal regional partnership on animal disease outbreak management.

Funding and support for this simulation has been provided by the United States Department of Agriculture – Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service – International Services (USDA-APHIS-IS), IICA, and CIRAD.

Further information on the exercise may be obtained by visiting the websites http://www.caribvet.net/ and http://www.iica.int/.


Author: Andre Skeete/Veterinary Services

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