The initiative, led by the Agricultural and Livestock Service (SAG), is part of the measures to prevent the entry of diseases into the country and to train cross-sectoral teams to face situations that require a rapid response.

Various representatives from the Chilean poultry industry, academia, the private sector, and officials from the Agricultural and Livestock Service (SAG) gathered at the Rancagua campus of the Universidad de O’Higgins to update the procedures of the avian influenza emergency plan and its technical handbook, that follows the guidelines of the World Organization for Animal Health’s (OIE) code and adapts them to SAG’s National Emergency System.

At the meeting, SAG’s acting National Director, Andrea Collao, pointed out that “this work is key to face any emergency due to avian influenza that might occur in our country in optimal conditions. Although Chile is currently free of this disease, SAG must always be prepared. This is why meetings like this are crucial for both internal and external coordination with other public and private stakeholders.”

OIE’s 2021 World Animal Health status report highlights that the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is still one of the major cross-border diseases, as various parts of the world are facing outbreaks caused by the H5N8 subtype of the virus.

“This drill allows us to gather information from various strategic parties that could be impacted by an outbreak, from the health authorities to the poultry, egg, and backyard-producing sector, and destination markets, to name a few. The objective of the drill was to review and update the contingency plan according to the current reality in order to act as efficiently and effectively as possible in the face of an HPAI outbreak, from controlling the outbreak itself to the maintenance of markets, as well as communication strategy, and protection of the country’s animal health asset,” explained Carolina Larraín, ChileCarne’s Head of Poultry Health who participated in the initiative.

Although Chile is free of this disease, the assessment conducted prior to the drill concluded that new events are highly likely because of the virus circulating in wild birds, as the role played by South American lineages in avian influenza circulating in wild reservoirs has been demonstrated and they are also the main source of pathogenic infections in domestic birds.

SAG has accumulated vast experience in controlling these viral outbreaks in birds; however, it is crucial to review the procedures of the Health Emergency Management System on a regular basis. This is particularly important now that the chapter on avian influenza of OIE’s Terrestrial Animal Health Code has been updated with new approaches and tools that impact the procedures to control an outbreak of this disease.