The chief veterinary officers (CVOs) from Canada, Mexico and the U.S. recently met as part of the 18th annual North American Animal Health Committee (NAAHC) meeting to review and plan "coordinated activities around animal health," according to a stakeholder announcement issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).
U.S. CVO Dr. Burke Healey, Canada CVO Dr. Jaspinder Komal and Mexico CVO Dr. Juan Gay Gutierrez jointly stated that they dedicated a special session at NAAHC this year "to discussing African swine fever (ASF), the actions we are taking to prevent its spread to North America and how to minimize the impact of this disease, should it be introduced into the region."
The CVOs said recent events demonstrate that "ASF is an international disease that knows no borders and can move rapidly from one country to the next. As such, it requires a coordinated, international response to ensure our collective readiness for ASF."
They reported that the meeting has resulted in the foundation for a new North American-specific ASF strategy.
"The strategy will help guide ASF-related coordination and cooperation between Canada, Mexico and the U.S. in our communications, prevention, preparedness and response activities," the CVOs said.
As part of efforts to keep North America free of ASF, the CVOs held discussions in the following key areas:
- Comprehensive disease surveillance;
- Surge capacity aimed at helping to ensure laboratories and people are ready to respond (for example, laboratories of Canada, Mexico and the U.S. would work together to harmonize diagnostic tests for exotic animal diseases);
- Contingency plans;
- Mitigation of risks associated with wild pigs through activities such as control programs, surveillance, hunter education and farm biosecurity;
- Border security, including inspection and control measures;
- Business continuity with risk-based movements of animal and animal products, and
- Coordinated risk communication.
According to APHIS, the next step will be to form a North American ASF working group that is made up of government and industry representatives from the three countries under NAAHC.
"ASF international collaboration is accelerating as we take these steps in prevention, preparedness and response. The three partners look forward to participating in upcoming international meetings and in forging regional and sub-regional partnerships aimed at leading the effort to keep North America ASF free," Healey, Komal and Gutierrez said.
"As part of this, the Mexican delegation announced that they would be hosting a North American ASF Forum in Riviera Nayarit, Mexico, on Oct. 22-23, 2019, to continue strengthening activities against ASF and in association with an exercise drill for an ASF outbreak that will test the entire structure of competent authorities,” they added.