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Biosecurity in perspective

By Dr Peter Evans, paper delivered at SAPPO’s Annual General Meeting 2004.
The objective of biosecurity can be summarised as follows: –

  • Maintain the current health status
  • Eliminate the chance of any disease entering a biosecure area/compartment
  • Risk management.
  • To achieve the above objectives certain protocols and mechanisms need to be put in place and a sound awareness of potential threats needs to be nurtured.

Biosecurity takes place at various levels, namely:

  • International.
  • National.
  • Regional/local.
  • Farm.
  • International

On the international level the OIE, an international body that monitors diseases of international significance (eg foot and mouth), will monitor and publish lists of countries that are either free or infected of/with certain diseases. The OIE also sets down and approves protocols that countries that wish to be declared free need to adhere to.
Rapid globalisation and trade agreements and concessions have increased the movement of animals, meat and meat products with consequent increased risk of disease spread.
Our national veterinary services uses import permits to ensure as far as possible that animals, meat, meat products, semen and embryos, etc will not be the source of exotic diseases. These permits and especially the conditions that have to be satisfied must be based on real risk and may not be used as a “trade barrier”.
Continuous updating of the risks, based on science, are important so that the conditions of importation are justified, sufficient and “protective” of our health status. SAPPO’s annual serologic survey is an important indicator on diseases not present and enhances NVS’s case when laying down strict conditions for importation. Regrettably in SA resources at NVS are scarce and thus risk assessment analyses cannot be done on a continual basis, especially compared to first world countries. (SAPPO should take note of this fact).
A further task at national level is policing imports and point of entry control. Recent history with both PRRS and FMD have highlighted that resources and effort need to be enhanced at this level.
Producers become involved more at regional level, where by using provincial structures, marketing groups, study groups, breeding companies, advisors, they would become aware of potential threats and risks and remain aware of it.
Exotic diseases and epizootic outbreaks affect everyone and thus honesty and cooperation are of paramount importance.
Producers in designing and maintaining good biosecurity must ensure that they are well informed, that protocols and controls are appropriate and targeted and that physical boundaries (fences, showers and clothing) are in place.
Be pro-active in your approach rather that reactive. It is easier to prevent a disease entering compared to eradicating a disease.
Biosecurity is a process and it must become a way of life that is practiced 24/7.
Aristotle stated: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”
We could re-write this as: “We are what we repeatedly do. Biosecurity, then, is not a once-off act but a habit.”
It has been said “Change is the price of survival” – keep thinking that biosecurity is someone else’s problem and disease will never “take you out” and the only change you will experience is loss of your piggery.
A SWAT analysis on the PRRS outbreak is part of the October 2004 Pig Veterinary Society technical meeting. We hope to be able to take the lessons learnt to improve reaction times, actions and cooperation on behalf of the SAPPO, ie to be pro-active.
I hope that all of us realise that biosecurity is our collective responsibility and that we will not meet the objectives set out earlier if there is a lack of cooperation at all levels.

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