Dr. Harris said that coordinating and capacity building resources were critical for response and recovery in the context of any public health or animal health threat to St Kitts and Nevis. He commended the broad cross section of public sector entities that were participating in the simulation exercise and their external agencies for their support. Among the participating entities were the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Consumer Affairs, the Ministry of Trade, the Department of Public Health, the Defence Force, NEMA, the Customs Department and Solid Waste.
Minister Harris told the gathering that the experience of the Federation in handling the tropical bont tick and associated dermatophilosis disease indicated that success was contingent on strong technical assistance and support and the availability of other resources.
This simulation will focus on improving communication and coordination, resource planning, and preparedness and response for the introduction of a highly contagious animal disease into the Caribbean region. The simulation will be held simultaneously in 10 different countries (Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Haiti, Puerto Rico and the USVI, St Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines) with participants linked together virtually through the use of web-based tools.
The simulation is organized by the government of St. Kitts and Nevis, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), in collaboration with the United-States Department of Agriculture–Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service – International Services (USDA-APHIS-IS), the French agricultural research center for development (CIRAD) and the Caribbean Animal Health Network (CaribVET).
The objective of the simulation is to determine activities that should be undertaken when a highly contagious disease is introduced into the Caribbean and to test the inter-agency communication and coordination mechanisms that would be used, at both countries, regional and international levels.
The simulation exercise would be based on the example of foot-and-mouth disease being introduced into the region. Foot-and-mouth disease is considered to be one of the most contagious diseases known, affecting cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs. Foot-and-mouth disease does not affect humans, and the meat and milk from infected animals are safe for consumption. However, foot-and-mouth disease can result in substantial production losses and international trade restrictions.
Veterinary services, stakeholders working in animal health (quarantines, abattoirs), national representative of the Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Response Agency and other participants will be brought together to discuss priority actions and key roles in responding to a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak. Numerous international organizations will be participating in the simulation, either as facilitators, evaluators, or subject matter experts including the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA), the French agricultural research center for development (CIRAD), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).