In planning responses to emerging animal diseases, animal-health officials must account for a variety of unknowns, and design adaptable strategies for an appropriate response, depending on specific pathogens involved, virulence of the disease and its potential threat to livestock populations, food security and public health. With those factors in mind, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has developed its Emerging Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Plan, based on a framework developed in 2014. The plan outlines how APHIS Veterinary Services (VS) will identify, evaluate, and respond to emerging diseases in animal populations.

The authors note that rapid detection and response to emerging diseases are critical to animal agriculture, market access, public health and the overall national economy. Over the past 20 years, emerging animal diseases affecting production in the United States include porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS), infectious salmon anemia, West Nile virus, monkeypox virus and porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) in the United States.

The plan includes five primary goals:

1.       Undertake global awareness, assessment, and preparedness for animal diseases or pathogens not currently in the United States that may be of animal or public health concern or have trade implications.

2.       Detect, identify, and characterize disease events.

3.       Communicate findings and inform stakeholders.

4.       Respond quickly to minimize the impact of disease events.

5.       Address recovery from the event with strategies that stabilize animal agriculture, the food supply, and the economy, and protect public health and the environment.

“Because of the unknown nature of emerging diseases,” the authors add, “VS cannot define one specific response plan.” With that in mind, the plan outlines several options, including development of case definitions, conduct of on-farm investigations, development and distribution of communication materials, increase in diagnostic capacity, and establishment of regulations for a new program or policy. It also describes collaborative measures with other agencies and includes a list of agencies, within the USDA, from other U.S. government departments and international organizations that will play important roles in an outbreak.

The report defines four risk categories for emerging diseases, with the categorization affecting the type of response. These include:

Level 1: Nominal risk to U.S. animal or public health.

Level 2: Potential risk to U.S. animal or public health.

Level 3: Impending risk to U.S. animal or public health.

Level 4: Current risk to U.S. animal or public health.

View the full plan from USDA/APHIS.