A cooperative agreement between the USDA-Animal Plant Health Inspections Service (APHIS) and Iowa State University has led to the development of the comprehensive FAST Program intended primarily for large integrators in the Midwest to facilitate movement of eggs from non-affected flocks in the event of a catastrophic disease outbreak.
Components of the program will include:
- Biosecurity checklist for egg production premises,
- An active surveillance program using reverse RNA transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR),
- Location analysis of farms using GPS coordinates,
- An analysis algorithm providing a risk estimate to allow Incident Commanders to permit movement of eggs from non-affected premises deemed to be of negligible risk of infection.
Dr. Darrell Trampel of Iowa State University was the lead coordinator and the program was presented for review at the U.S. Animal Health Association Meeting in October 2008. In reviewing quarantines imposed following an outbreak of HPAI or END output from large inline complexes, over a 72-hour period would exceed the time required for conventional decisions regarding movement of product. The FAST egg program would avert loss of eggs and disruption of markets and would permit regular deliveries to be made to institutional and retail outlets.
Stopping infected eggs
The program would debar movement of eggs from either infected or suspect premises as denoted by a clinical abnormality including a decline in egg production, elevated mortality or demonstration of influenza viral RNA applying PCR analysis.
A panel of ten egg-industry veterinarians reviewed 124 biosecurity measures used by egg producers and selected 47 core requirements. Complexes or farms that comply with the requirements as determined by an auditor with six month reviews would participate in the program. In addition, the GPS code of the farm would be determined and scheduled.
In the event of a disease emergency, a questionnaire would be sent to the responsible complex manager requiring information to allow an epidemiologic evaluation and risk analysis. Forms which would be sent electronically would be completed and returned within 24 hours.
The surveillance component of the program would involve submission of daily oropharyngeal swab from five dead birds from each house. These samples would be collected and subjected to RT-PCR assay with the results submitted to the Incident Commander each day. Participating complexes would submit a daily report indicating mortality, egg production, feed and water consumption in order to confirm normal production.
The Incident Commander would determine a geospatial risk estimate of possible infection based on distance and direction from an affected farm and take into account the state of depopulation, logistics of feed delivery and the movement of personal, equipment, live birds, eggs and manure.
Review before implementation
The FAST eggs plan has not yet been implemented by APHIS. The various components of the program including documentation are undergoing review by producers and subject to modifications should be implemented when all parties are confident that the program satisfied the dual objectives of preventing dissemination of an exotic pathogen without unnecessarily disrupting the distribution of eggs.