Appendix 2: Animal Health Laboratory preparations – strengths and weaknesses

Ministry for Primary Industries: Preparing for and responding to biosecurity incursions.

The following table sets out the strengths and weaknesses in how the Animal Health Laboratory prepares for a foot and mouth disease outbreak

Strengths Weaknesses
Laboratory plan
The laboratory has a plan to respond to a foot and mouth disease outbreak. The plan is incomplete.
The plan has considered the likely scientific work required in an outbreak, including:
  • laboratory processes;
  • testing processes; and
  • defining team roles.
The laboratory plan estimates that a medium to large response would require a two-shift rota, with 50-70 more staff a shift.

The Ministry's Quality, Services and Support (QSS) team is on the same site as the laboratory.
The laboratory plan does not detail or show how it will deal with:
  • getting extra staff;
  • accommodating extra staff;
  • training extra staff;
  • equipping extra staff;
  • logistics and staff support – it assumes the QSS team would handle logistics but this is not agreed;
  • ensuring that there are enough supplies for the laboratory;
  • the need for extra data processing, hardware and software requirements, licences, telephone/Internet connections, and IT technical support; or
  • sharing or transferring work and information between different laboratories if needed.
The plan assumes, without supporting evidence, that the Ministry would provide the necessary funding to get the staff, equipment, and supplies to run the laboratory during an outbreak.
Staffing and capability
During the last two years, the Ministry sent two scientists to work at the World Reference Laboratory for Foot-and-Mouth Disease in the United Kingdom.

New scientific testing methods allow laboratory staff to maintain some aspects of capability better.
The laboratory does not hold or want to hold any samples of the virus. Maintaining capability without any active hands-on work is challenging.
There is some cross-training of laboratory staff on methods to diagnose foot and mouth disease to improve flexibility.
The Ministry, Crown research institutes, and private organisations have a veterinary diagnostic laboratory network. Members meet once a year and exchange emails during the year. The network:
  • fosters biosafety;
  • improves communications and knowledge transfer;
  • discusses professional, national, and international standards; and
  • supports animal disease emergency events.
The veterinary network is informal, in its early days, and focused on talking. It has no documented plans.
A formal arrangement for providing laboratory staff from the National Centre for Biosecurity and Infectious Diseases has been used for smaller responses. There is no evidence that this arrangement would supply enough extra staff.
Information systems
The Ministry is working to improve the Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) to allow it to interact with the Ministry's other IT systems. LIMS does not interact with the Ministry's other systems.

The laboratory is unable to transfer information to other laboratories outside the Ministry.
Simulation and testing
Three staff took part in the Exercise Taurus 2012 simulation exercise. There has been no laboratory-based simulation of an outbreak.
The laboratory estimates that, during the first two phases of an outbreak (investigation and response), it could process 35 premises with clinical signs of the disease (or 14 premises without clinical signs) each week. Likely estimates of demand in an outbreak show:
  • between 10 and 80 farms a week (large outbreak); and
  • between 50 and 70 farms a week (medium outbreak).
The laboratory considers that it can meet the likely demand forecast in the standard scenario (3000 serum samples a day at first, possibly rising to 6000) after the response, to demonstrate proof of freedom from the disease. The standard scenario may underestimate the probable size of an outbreak.

Source: Ministry for Primary Industries.

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