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.

6. Confirmation of disease

Immediate communications upon confirmation

6.1 As soon as disease is confirmed, Defra group Communications (APHA team) prepare data and draft content for mass messaging via text or email. Mass messages are issued once the owner has been informed of disease confirmation and GOV.Scot content (news story, declaration, zone maps) have gone live.

  • Mass messages are issued to :-
    • Registered keepers of relevant species in relevant disease control zones
    • Vets
    • Disease alert subscribers
  • the Scottish Government will issue a news release confirming disease
  • CVO Scotland (if disease is confirmed in Scotland) will be made available for media bids. CMO Scotland may be made available for media bids where outbreaks have zoonotic potential
  • a disease specific area on the Scottish Government's web site will be activated to provide the declaration, zone maps and regular updates
  • the Disease Strategy Group (DSG) and Disease Policy Unit (DPU) may be activated for larger outbreaks
  • a meeting of key industry stakeholders will be held as soon as practicable.

6.2 CVO UK will notify the European Commission and the WOAH of an outbreak of exotic notifiable disease within any part of the UK.

Zoonotic Diseases – Public health communications

6.3 Where disease has zoonotic potential (e.g. rabies and certain strains of avian influenza), public health communications will also be a consideration and will be discussed and agreed by the Public Health Scotland (PHS) led Incident Management Team (IMT). Both the Disease Strategy Group (DSG) and the Central Disease Control Centre (CDCC) will be represented at the National Incident Management Team (IMT).

6.4 PHS will lead the management and coordination of the public health incident response, following the principles set out in the 'Guidance on the Management of Public Health Incidents'. The IMT will have communications representation from PHS, who will liaise with SG communications and other agencies as required. As is standard practice, the IMT will agree public health communications and messages as part of the standing agenda. The IMT will identify and agree media spokespeople, e.g. local CPHM, chair of the IMT or Chief Medical Officer (CMO), depending on the scale of the incident and public health implications.

6.5 Links between animal disease related control structures and existing structures for communicating public health messages will be made through IMT representation at the DSG, the CDCC-MCT and the NDCC, to ensure messages are correct and consistent. In addition, PHS communications will be represented at any PHS chaired IMTs.

Policy on naming of locations upon confirmation

6.6 If a fast spreading exotic disease (such as foot and mouth disease) is confirmed, the premises may be named, and its location disclosed. In such circumstances, there can be benefits in terms of disease control, i.e. raising awareness of the disease; and obtaining support for activities, such as tracing possible contact animals. This policy does not extend to endemic diseases - such as sheep scab - where the different nature of the disease makes such disease control benefits unlikely to arise. Therefore this makes it difficult to justify breaching an individual's right to privacy.

Convening of stakeholder groups upon confirmation

6.7 Stakeholder organisations play an important role in relaying essential information to their members and the public (and vice versa). Therefore, it is important that initial stakeholder group meetings take place at the earliest possible stage. Stakeholder groups generally fall into three categories:

  • Scottish stakeholder groups chaired by CVO Scotland
  • Local stakeholder groups chaired by APHA's Outbreak Director
  • GB exotic disease stakeholder Core Groups chaired by CVO Scotland or Defra.

6.8 Members of the relevant species-specific GB exotic diseases Core Group will be invited to attend the Scottish stakeholder groups. However, if there are concurrent disease outbreaks in another GB Administration, the GB Core Group will convene in its own right.

Scottish Government website upon confirmation

6.9 The Scottish Government website contains general information on animal diseases. Where appropriate, links to specific animal disease SG webpages will be included in Scottish Government news releases and statements. Where relevant, news releases will include links to information on other government departments or agencies websites, e.g. Defra (gov.uk) and APHA.


Email: Animal.Health@gov.scot

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