Exotic animal diseases communications strategy: August 2022

This communications strategy is for use in the event of a disease outbreak, whether a major outbreak with widespread disease, or a more limited incident.

5. Suspicion of disease

Communications at suspect stage

5.1 When APHA has been informed about a suspect notifiable disease that requires investigation by an official veterinarian, APHA Scotland will immediately alert the Scottish Government's Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO), CVO UK and operational partners, as agreed with APHA's Head of Field Delivery (Scotland). A suspect case is one in which susceptible animals have been examined by a Veterinary Inspector who cannot rule out disease on clinical grounds. As a result, samples are taken and sent for laboratory testing to confirm or negate the presence of disease. If, based on a risk assessment, the suspect case is considered to be a cause for concern, one of the CVOs (depending on which country disease is suspected in) will call a case conference involving the four territorial Chief Veterinary Officers supported by key policy and veterinary officials from each Administration. This case conference will consider the emerging issues and next steps. It will also determine whether further investigation is required or if the circumstances warrant triggering an Amber Teleconference.

5.2 Coordination of communications will be important from the outset. The Amber Teleconference meeting is the forum where any planned communications are discussed and reviewed with all UK administrations and operational partners, based on the emerging situation. The Scottish Government are responsible for arranging Scottish representation at the Amber Teleconference. The list of Scottish representatives is pre-agreed. This process is explained more fully in Chapter 1 of the 'Scottish Government's Exotic Disease of Animals Contingency Framework Plan'.

Wider government notification

5.3 The Head of the Scottish Government's Disease Control Branch and the CVO Scotland will brief relevant Government contacts to ensure initial preparations are made in the event disease is confirmed. This will ensure adequate resources are available to support the disease control operation.

Notifying Resilience Partnerships (RPs)

5.4 Once APHA has been informed about a suspect notifiable disease that requires investigation by an official veterinarian, APHA Scotland will alert relevant operational partners in any affected area, as agreed with the Head of Field Delivery (Scotland). The timing and method of communication to operational partners will be based on a veterinary risk assessment of the likely consequences and impact of the disease suspected. Any email notifications will be on form EDO12 Suspect Disease Notification.

5.5 Although APHA will alert the relevant operational partners in any affected area, the Scottish Government's Resilience Division will discuss with Scottish Government's Disease Control Branch if all RPs should be alerted, particularly where confirmation of disease may impact across multiple regional and local partnership areas. This will facilitate a coordination of resources, as operational partners prepare for possible confirmation of disease. This decision will be based on factors including:

  • type and location of suspect disease
  • likelihood of disease confirmation based on risk assessment(s)
  • potential requirement for consequence management should disease be confirmed.

Stakeholder notification

5.6 If Scottish Ministers consider that alerting stakeholders at the suspect stage will be beneficial, the Head of the Scottish Government's Disease Control Branch will co-ordinate communications with relevant stakeholders to alert them to the latest developments and initiate preparations for confirmation of disease.

Proactive communications upon suspicion of disease

5.7 If, following advice from officials, Scottish Ministers agree there is sufficient benefit to be gained from alerting the public to the existence of the suspect case, proactive communications will be undertaken, e.g. to publicise the imposition of area movement controls if there is a high risk of disease spread.

5.8 Any news release at the suspect stage will contain limited information, highlighting that a routine investigation is underway into a suspect case of notifiable disease and any movement controls that have been imposed. Coordination between the Scottish Government's Communications Directorate, communications teams from other UK administrations and operational partners, will ensure that consistency of messages is maintained.

Policy on naming of locations at suspect stage

5.9 If proactive communications are undertaken at the suspect stage, it will not normally name suspect locations, unless there are specific disease control reasons for doing so. Although the exact location of the suspect case will not be identified, a map showing any area placed under movement restrictions will be issued. Operational partners, such as local authorities, should ask journalists to call the Scottish Government's Communications Directorate on 0300 244 0222. Out of hours, journalists should contact the Scottish Government's duty communications officer on 0300 244 4000 SG. If a local authority requires advice from the Disease Control Branch, they should email Animal.Health@gov.scot


Email: Animal.Health@gov.scot

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