Australia tests International Animal Health Emergency Reserve Arrangements in Exercise Athena
Australia recently led an international emergency animal disease simulation, Exercise Athena, which tested arrangements for deploying personnel across international borders to respond to emergency animal disease events.
Veterinary authorities from Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the UK and the USA joined forces to simulate an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in a scenario that put Australia at the centre of the fictitious outbreak across three jurisdictions.
In the exercise, the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources requested assistance from signatories to the International Animal Health Emergency Reserve (IAHER) Arrangement, which allows countries to share personnel during an emergency animal disease event.
Australia’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr Mark Schipp, said that Athena provided the opportunity to test procedures, train staff and raise awareness more broadly of the requirements for participating in an animal disease response.
“These exercises are an important part of building our capability and preparedness in Australia to manage and respond to emergency animal diseases such as Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD),” Dr Schipp said.
“A large outbreak of FMD is estimated to cost Australia more than $50 billion over 10 years and would put enormous pressure on our domestic management and response resources which is why an agreement to share international personnel is so important.
“Our involvement in Athena demonstrated areas where we can fast track administrative arrangements for financial reimbursement, veterinary registration and Occupational Health and Safety that will ultimately put more people on the ground sooner to response to any future disease outbreaks.”
All countries agreed that ongoing collaboration and communication were essential to using the IAHER Arrangement successfully.
Lessons identified during the exercise will be further investigated by the Animal Health Quadrilateral group and relevant national committees. When finalised, the improvements will be incorporated into Australia’s international and domestic response arrangements and procedures.
For information on Exercise Athena visit Exercise Athena.