EU countries are now better equipped than ever before to respond to zoonotic disease outbreaks, after completing a country-level, desk-top exercise, designed to test the interoperability between the public health, animal health and food safety sectors, in a One-Health approach. Despite the diversity in country-specific responses to disease control, some common themes such as improved communication and data management were uncovered, providing important lessons learnt, applicable to any country wishing to implement a coordinated One-Health centric approach to disease control in the future.
Foodborne zoonotic diseases within European countries continue to have a significant impact on public health, which can be mitigated by implementing a One-Health approach. Within this context, One-Health considers joining up animal health, human health, and food safety sectors. The One Health European Joint Project SimEx project (EJP SimEx) was designed to offer the opportunity to European countries to practice, assess and improve their One-Health cooperation in a simulated foodborne outbreak situation.
One-Health outbreak preparedness
A realistic scenario covering the different stages of a Salmonella outbreak investigation involving both the human food chain and the raw pet feed industry was developed. The scenario was announced to the countries at a workshop and included an opportunity for the exercise leaders to discuss and adapt the scenario to be relevant to their own country’s needs. The 2-day exercise was designed as a national level simulation exercise, bringing people together across all representative One-Health sectors to facilitate collaborative cross-sector working. Eleven countries completed the exercise during the summer of 2022, representing one of the largest foodborne zoonotic disease exercises with a focus on One-Health.
Key to the success of the project, each country evaluated the experience to understand data sharing practices, intersectoral communication strategies and roles and responsibilities between sectors. Overall cross-country analysis has provided vital recommendations for all countries to adopt a One-Health approach.
Effective preparedness plans are a high priority for many countries due to the increasing health threats posed by climate change and globalization. Initiatives such as One Health EJP SimEx play an essential role in ensuring countries are prepared to respond effectively to national and international emergencies. Two key findings from the exercise, consistent across many countries, were the importance of data sharing and the need for improved communication between the people responsible for managing disease outbreaks across the sectors. Regular meetings with these representatives, provides opportunities to discuss common challenges and successes within each sector and build a community spirit.
As part of the scenario, the countries were introduced to a tracing tool Food chain lab (FoodChain-Lab – FoodRisk-Labs (bund.de)), developed within the OHEJP, which was well received and provided additional assistance in tracing the source of a food chain outbreak. Furthermore, the use of the online tool OH-EpiCap (OH-EpiCap Tool (shinyapps.io ), designed to evaluate a country’s capacities and capabilities in order to improve One-Health collaboration, is also promoted within OHEJP and extremely beneficial to countries interested in improving One-Health cooperation.
Future One-Health focussed exercises have been requested by the countries taking part, to reassess their response to a different scenario.
Read the full article here.
Read the latest SimEx Project publication in One Health journal, available here.
The project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under Grant Agreement No 773830.
Read more about the OHEJP SimEx Project on this webpage.