Written by: Leah Wilkinson | October 8, 2019
In order to get better at something, you must practice. That was drilled into me at a young age by a basketball coach I had as a pre-teen. I wanted to play college basketball so I practiced and practiced, I even slept with my basketball! That saying also goes for activities outside of sports too. So, practice indeed is what our U.S. government agencies and 14 state animal health authorities did in September, regarding a mock scenario of an African swine fever (ASF) outbreak in the U.S.
The four-day exercise focused on: conducting a foreign animal disease investigation, stop-movement orders in the event of a positive finding, depopulation and disposal, and business continuity during an outbreak. The exercise was intended to address unique issues related to ASF response and mitigation, and identify specific gaps that need resolution.
I was able to participate in the exercise on behalf of the American Feed Industry Association as a subject matter expert. I gained a much better understanding of the policies and plans the federal and state governments have drafted to respond to the introduction of ASF. Some feed specific issues that came up during the exercise included a state putting a stop movement of any swine feed deliveries for the first 72 hours after “detecting” the virus in the U.S. Other states looked at possible permitting of swine feed deliveries after establishing the control zones. There are pros and cons to all proposed actions and by being in the room, I was able to identify and address those issues on behalf of the industry so there might be a little less chaos during such an event.
One item that was clear – implementing biosecurity procedures in your feed mill and with feed deliveries will be vital to allow for continued or “controlled” movement of feed in the event of an outbreak.
I didn’t play basketball in college, but I still got better because of my practicing and coaching. And because of this exercise, our state and federal response for an animal disease outbreak such as ASF will be better…I just hope and pray we never have to find out how good the practice made us.