Avian influenza outbreak exercise: evaluation
Report setting out lessons identified following Exercise Hazel, a test of Scotland’s plans for controlling an avian influenza (bird flu) outbreak.
This report contains the details of Exercise Hazel, a Scottish avian influenza (AI) exercise, organised by us in collaboration with the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) and a major Scottish broiler producer. The report evaluates the exercise and records the lessons identified for further action.
The primary purpose of Exercise Hazel was to test our contingency plans and policies for the control of an AI outbreak. It also tested APHA's preparedness for an AI incursion on a large-scale commercial poultry premises and raised industry awareness in the processes involved in containing and managing such a large-scale outbreak. The views of interested parties attending on the day were also sought.
This exercise was a follow on from Exercise Juniper, held in July 2018, which looked at similar issues relevant to an AI outbreak in an egg production company.
2.1 Exercise Hazel
Exercise Hazel took place on 16 October 2019. It was a one-day tabletop exercise, including presentations and group discussions. The exercise began by discussing the actions required after the identification of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 in a dead wild bird through the GB dead wild bird surveillance scheme. For the purpose of the exercise, HPAI H5N1 was then confirmed on a poultry farm (broiler breeder unit) in close proximity to the location where the infected dead wild bird was found. In the scenario disease spread to various parts of the business. Exercise participants were asked to describe the actions that they and their organisation would undertake during each scenario.
Unlike Exercise Juniper, only a few documents were circulated in advance of the exercise. This was done with a view to increasing spontaneous responses and encourage discussion. Throughout the day, feedback was taken on flip charts at each table, and time was allowed for questions and discussion throughout the day.
Thirty-six participants took part in Exercise Hazel, including representatives from various operational partners. Unlike previous exercises, where participants were broken into groups, on this occasion participants had the option of free seating. However, many chose to sit with their own colleagues. All participants took part in the discussions throughout the day.
A full list of participating organisations can be found at Annex C.
2.3 Aims and Objectives
The key aim of the exercise was:
To explore procedures that would be applied for the control of a HPAI outbreak in an integrated broiler production company and surrounding area, including incident management, decision-making responses and identifying appropriate disease control and licensing measures.
2.4 The objectives were to:
- explore incident management and decision-making in response to an outbreak of HPAI H5N1 within a large commercial business;
- identify appropriate disease control and licensing measures;
- enable policy and regulatory bodies to gain an improved understanding of the operational aspects of the business and the wider pathways involved in poultry production;
- enable the company to appreciate the regulatory framework during disease control;
- examine the co-ordination and flow of information between SG / APHA / the producer;
- identify key tasks, roles and capability / capacity gaps for partners involved in a HPAI H5N1 outbreak and
- ensure that actions and owners are identified to address the identified gaps.
A survey was carried out following the exercise via a Survey Monkey Questionnaire that was sent to all attendees. Responses are detailed at Annex B
Feedback from participants and observers of the exercise was encouraging, with around 92% of respondents noting that the objectives of the exercise were either fully or mainly met. Whilst this feedback was positive, the exercise identified a number of areas for further improvement.
These lessons are reflected in more detail throughout this report. Feedback provided by the delegates indicated that, as an opportunity for learning and development, Exercise Hazel brought improvements to Scotland's overall
preparedness for an avian influenza outbreak in a large-scale broiler producer premises, through increasing awareness of avian influenza and the response structures set up to help control an outbreak.
2.6 Lessons Identified
Lessons have been grouped into five broad categories:
- cleansing and disinfection and storage/movement of litter;
- antivirals and
A summary of all lessons identified can be found in Annex A
A small scenario sub-group compromising of a representative from APHA, the producer and us which was chaired by APHA met several times to help develop the exercise scenario.
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