Biosecurity in Animal & Veterinary Settings Expert Article

Biosecurity can be defined as the measures taken to prevent the spread of diseases to humans, animals, and plants. A breach in biosecurity measures can affect numerous animal, agricultural, and research industries. As highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the spread of disease can cost billions of dollars in lost revenue, hospitalization, and productivity to mitigate.

This article explores the standards of care for biosecurity, and the factors that would be assessed in the forensic investigation of a disease outbreak.

Biosecurity in Animal & Veterinary Settings Expert

Biosecurity in Animal & Veterinary Settings

Diseases that affect agricultural production can devastate food supplies and strain supply chains. Examples of exposure to these hazards, the risk of exposure that create a dangerous condition, and the means and methods to mitigate dangerous conditions are demonstrated below:

  • The highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak (HPAI) of 2014 cost the U.S. poultry industry approximately $3.3 billion and the U.S. Department of Agriculture over $600 million in efforts to mitigate risks of the disease.
  • The consequences of a hazardous foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak in the U.S. would be catastrophic to the nation’s cattle industry. Epidemiological models project a financial impact of $69 billion for an FMD outbreak that is contained in 21 days. Any delay beyond that point would potentially lead to the culling of 2,000 cattle an hour to contain the disease and decrease the risk to other animals and to humans.

Lapses in biosecurity in agricultural and research settings can expose workers to disease and contaminate the physical location:

  • Immune-compromised individuals are at a higher risk for developing “fish tank granuloma” caused by handling colonies of fish and amphibians infected with Mycobacterium marinum. This bacteria can cause illness in humans ranging from skin lesions to bone infections and arthritis.
  • Old World Macaques can spread many serious diseases to humans. Two illnesses of note include Herpes B and tuberculosis. Appropriate screening for these diseases prior to facility entry and release from quarantine is essential to preserving the safety of personnel.

Disease outbreaks in kennels, veterinary clinics, animal shelters, zoos, and show facilities cost thousands of dollars in direct and indirect costs:

  • The introduction of highly contagious diseases such as canine parvovirus and feline panleukopenia can cause a rapid spread of disease through large populations of animals. Treatment of dogs and cats with these types of viruses can be expensive, lengthy, and may prove unsuccessful.
  • Equine strangles is one of the most highly contagious illnesses in horses. Outbreaks result in lengthy quarantines that can have large financial ramifications for breeding facilities, boarding stables, race tracks, and show facilities.

Biosecurity Program Components

A forensic investigation of a biosecurity breach would involve the assessment of the following areas:

Facility Protocols and Procedures

Organizations should provide clear guidance to staff to empower them to handle suspected animal illnesses, facility emergencies, etc. Likewise, facility standard operating procedures should have contingency plans that are consistent with industry standards.

Administrators should also be able to demonstrate that materials entering the facilities, such as food, bedding, water, and enrichment materials are clean, wholesome, and uncontaminated.

Employee Training, Observation & Evaluation

To maintain biosecurity standards, animal facilities should have a detailed plan for both didactic (book- or lecture-based) and hands-on training of personnel. The establishment of operational benchmarks or metrics and the routine observation of personnel conducting their duties ensure the proper implementation of the industry standards of care and adherence to standard operation procedures. These observations can be complied as written employee training and evaluation plans.

Sanitation Protocols for Holding Areas, Cage Wash Systems & Other Equipment

To prevent the spread of hazardous pathogens, the facility must possess sufficient equipment to provide feed, water, housing, and enrichment to the maximum capacity of animals. Ample time, facilities, and labor hours must be devoted to sanitizing equipment and housing between uses by different animals or by animals moved from one area to another.

Cleaning protocols should be based upon industry best practices, pertinent regulatory guidelines, and manufacturer recommendations. All animal facilities should have a robust rodent and insect mitigation program to prevent food contamination and vector-borne disease spread.

Assessment of Entry Requirements for Animals & Personnel

Quarantine requirements of incoming animals should be thoughtfully considered. For boarding facilities and show venues, a balance should be struck between disease prevention and inconvenience to clientele and exhibitors. Veterinary clinics and animal shelters should have protocols in place to segregate animals with unknown vaccination and health status from the rest of their inpatient and outpatient visitors.

Human visitors to food production and research animal facilities should be appropriately screened through occupational health services. New employees, facility visitors, and volunteers should receive safety instruction prior to entering animal facilities.

Adherence to Appropriate Industry Regulations

Research facilities should have proper oversight from an engaged Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). Provisions of the Animal Welfare Act for procurement, transportation, and housing must be met in these settings.

Society generally expects that animals used for exhibition, sport, personal enjoyment, food production, and research are treated humanely. Ample research exists to indicate that minimizing stress in animal facilities improves the health of animals, which in turn improves biosecurity efforts.

Animal facilities should be able to demonstrate the steps they take to improve animal welfare in their facility and how they actively eliminate any animal abuse, neglect, or mistreatment.

Biosecurity Failure Expert Witness Investigations

The investigation of biosecurity failures and animal disease outbreaks are complicated matters. Robson Forensic is well-positioned to tackle these cases. Beyond the firm’s extensive veterinary expertise, we also have experts in additional fields who can provide invaluable insight (transportation; heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) engineering; and human factors) into complex biosecurity challenges.

For more information, submit an inquiry or call us at 800.813.6736.

Featured Expert

Kenyon Conklin, Veterinary Expert

Kenyon Conklin, VMD

Veterinary Expert
Dr. Kenyon Conklin is a licensed veterinarian with over 20 years of experience in the private practice, corporate, military, and research sectors. She provides technical investigations, analysis,… read more.

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