To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps his Department is taking to ensure that the UK is effectively prepared to tackle zoonotic diseases.
11 July 2022
Zoonotic infections threaten both human and animal health. For zoonotic diseases, we have systems in place to detect and manage outbreaks, for both endemic (those that are already found in the UK) and exotic infections, collaborating closely with the public health agencies.
For Salmonella for example, we have well established National Control Programmes in the poultry sector to protect public health. These mandate regular testing for Salmonella followed by appropriate measures to help control the risk where flocks are found to be positive.
The Animal and Plant Health Agency’s (APHA) scanning surveillance programme is set up to detect a wide range of animal-related disease threats through diagnostic service and the networks of expertise in its Species Expert Groups.
We also carry out horizon scanning for infections not yet in the UK. This helps us prepare for possible future incursions, through the APHA’s International Disease Monitoring programme and through collaborative work with UK public health bodies in the Human and Animal Infection and Risk Surveillance group. This group assesses new and emerging infections and advises on suitable mitigations and controls that may be necessary to protect public health.
Defra has an England Disease Contingency Plan for exotic notifiable diseases and our disease control plans are exercised regularly. The contingency plan outlines how we would work with other government agencies and departments to control zoonotic diseases as well as those which only affect livestock. This is being put to use at the moment, through our response to avian influenza outbreaks.