KANSAS CITY, MO. – A foreign animal disease outbreak in the United States would limit live animal movement, product movement and halt exports. Because of this, being prepared for such a scenario should be top of mind for all segments of the industry, KatieRose McCullough, director of regulatory and scientific affairs for the North American Meat Institute (NAMI), said in a webinar entitled “How to Prepare your Establishment for a Foreign Animal Disease Outbreak.”

“It is the time to be extra vigilant and make sure establishments have their foreign animal disease protocols in place before something happens,” McCullough said.

McCullough discussed the recent detection of African Swine Fever (ASF) in the Dominican Republic as 11 provinces in the country recently had positive cases. Given the geographic proximity of the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico and the United States, the possibility of such an outbreak is real.

McCullough shared several steps producers and processors should take to prepare for an outbreak. First, processing plants should simply develop a relationship with state animal health officials. This is usually the state veterinarian, and she said management at livestock processing plants should know who the official is and how to get in touch with them.

“Building up that goodwill could help you tremendously in the long run if your plant is positive or if your plant finds itself in a controlled area of a foreign animal disease outbreak,” she said.

She also recommended obtaining a Premise Identification Number (PIN) state animal health officials. The PIN is associated with a physical address and a set of matching coordinates that indicate the location of animals on a premise. In the event of an outbreak, it will be used for tracking purposes.

Appointing a biosecurity coordinator, reviewing biosecurity plans and devising an enhanced plan for outbreaks are other important considerations.

Being familiar with wastewater regulations is also critical because in the event of an outbreak, all waste leaving the establishment must go through a process to deactivate the virus.

Additionally, facilities must be prepared for outbreak-related supply chain disruptions. If a pathogen is detected, the US Department of Agriculture will initiate a 72-hour stoppage that would halt slaughter for that period of time. During this time, establishments should ensure all areas of the plant would have to be cleaned and disinfected, while officials gather tracing information for the previous and upcoming month and prepare to implement enhanced biosecurity plans.

“Being prepared for an outbreak situation can help shorten the amount of time where movements or exports are stalled in the event there is an outbreak,” McCullough said. “It might help you receive live animals faster and it might help your plant be able to export quicker.”

Familiarizing the team with secure food supply plans and maintaining movement records for the previous month is also essential. With this, trace-forward information will also be helpful, including information on trucks leaving the facility and what the trucks were hauling.

Ultimately, training management at animal plants to be familiar with the signs of Foot and Mouth Disease, Classical Swine Fever, ASF, and other pathogens is also important so they can quickly identify if there is something wrong with any animals coming to the facility.

McCullough also recommended participating in a preparedness exercise. These exercises can simulate an outbreak and encourage participants to address issues that arise during an outbreak. Participating in these exercises also helps build a relationship with the state animal health official and trains the team at facilities to work together in such a situation.

“It is critical we find and stem the outbreak as possible, and early identification, notification and reporting is paramount to that,” McCullough said.