TCP/SRL/4554

ASSISTANCE FOR RINDERPEST PREVENTION AND CONTROL
SRI LANKA

Department of Animal Production and Health
Ministry of Livestock Development and Rural Industries

RINDERPEST DIAGNOSIS AND SURVEILLANCE CONSULTANT
MISSION REPORT

Michael Nicholls
Kandy, May 1997

TABLE OF CONTENTS

SUMMARY

1.INTRODUCTION

2. MAIN FINDINGS AND CONCLUSION

3. RECOMMENDATIONS

Annex 1 Contingency plans

Annex 2 further TCP support

Abbreviations


SUMMARY

The rinderpest status of Sri Lanka remains as reported by the first TCP mission consultant in 1995, in that no outbreaks of rinderpest have been reported since 1994.

The GOS policy on rinderpest is to continue towards eradication following OIE guidelines.The national security situation has delayed proposed improvements in movement control, surveillance and reporting. These difficulties, together with proposed imports of live animals, make it advisable to consider delaying the Declaration of Provisional Freedom from Disease on a zonal basis proposed to be made in early 1997.

The security situation also delayed procurement of equipment and supplies to be purchased under the TCP, in order to assist in emergency disease control and surveillance activities.

Despite these drawbacks the mass vaccination campaign has continued in the NEP and a serological survey of cattle and buffalo populations outside the NEP commenced in May 1997. This survey designed by the first TCP consultant has the objective of detecting evidence of rinderpest virus in the livestock population, should it still be present.

It is now considered unlikely that rinderpest is still present in Sri Lanka. If it was still present, clinical disease would be occurring in the areas of the country containing large numbers of non-immune livestock as the movement of animals is largely uncontrolled and the present levels of surveillance would allow for reporting of outbreaks.

It is now advised that mass vaccination should cease following completion of the vaccination campaign planned for the NEP in late 1997. Disease surveillance and reporting should be strengthened and the thermostable vaccine supplied under the TCP Project should be kept as a contingency reserve for use in ring vaccination in the case of further disease outbreaks.

Providing no further disease outbreaks are reported, a Provisional Declaration of Freedom from Disease could be made on a national basis at the end of 1997. Following a further three years, with support from the EU Project for strengthening the veterinary services, a Declaration of Freedom from Disease (and possibly a Declaration of Freedom from Infection) could be made on a national basis.

With assistance from the TCP project, staff of the DAPH are now fully competent to conduct the serosurvey, serological analysis, maintenance of a serum bank and a database for data handling.

It proved impossible to run the ELISA test kit supplied within its control limits and despite assistance from the WRL, Pirbright, it is concluded that the problem can only be resolved by the fielding of an ELISA technology expert and the provision of additional reagents.

The outstanding items of equipment and reagents to be purchased under the TCP are to be procured shortly, including 100,000 doses of thermostable vaccine. On receipt of the outstanding items emergency support under the TCP will be concluded.

The project funded by the EU to improve the capacity of the DAPH to control major diseases of livestock, including rinderpest, has recently been agreed to by the GOS.

Support from this project is vital in order to provide the logistics and training to enable the DAPH to make further progress along the OIE Pathway to rinderpest freedom.

Recommendations have been made for the most essential improvements and the EU project will need to come on-stream in the near future in order to support these developments.

Should there prove to be extended delays prior to commencement of the EU Project activities, recommendations have been made for possible further interim TCP support, in order to contain the disease situation and maintain disease surveillance activities.

1. INTRODUCTION
1.1 Background

Rinderpest was reintroduced into Sri Lanka in 1987 and despite government control efforts disease outbreaks continued to be reported up until 1994. Although the disease appears to be under control in much of the country, the national disease status and particularly that of the NEP (where the disease had become endemic) remains unclear, with the situation being exacerbated by on-going security problems confined to much of the NEP. An FAO/EU joint mission in 1993 followed by an FAO mission under TCP/RAS/2359(F) in 1995 reviewed the situation and produced draft proposals for a national project to be financed by the EU, to include support for rinderpest eradication.

As urgent action was required to contain possible disease outbreaks, FAO approved short term project support under TCP/SRL/4554, designed to contain rinderpest in the NEP and strengthen rinderpest control nation-wide, thereby laying the foundation for progress towards eradication through the EU project, following OIE guidelines.

Following preparation of the TCP, the security situation rapidly deteriorated, preventing implementation of its field activities and delaying procurement of equipment and supplies.

In July/August 1995 a 28 day consultancy mission appraised the situation and made recommendations for further action under the TCP. In addition, the mission assisted the DAPH in the continued development of its rinderpest control policy and the design of surveillance activities required to follow the 'OIE Pathway' leading to international recognition for national freedom from rinderpest.

In December 1996 a Technical Backstopping Mission for the TCP was made over a 24 hour period by the FAO, Regional Animal Production and Health Officer, Bangkok. The TCP was again reviewed and recommendations made to continue procurement of requisite supplies and provide a final consultant to help with initiation of the serological survey, review the project and prepare a draft terminal report.

The present 40 day in-country mission followed on from those recommendations, as the final input under the TCP.

During briefing at FAO, RAP, Bangkok the consultant was requested to consider the concerns of Dr M Rweyemamu FAO, AGAH, Rome that the consultancy would be most effective if it concentrated on surveillance, disease search and emergency preparedness rather than laboratory techniques, particularly as the consultant's expertise lay in the former field rather than the latter. It was therefore agreed that the consultant would take these concerns into consideration during the mission. This change in emphasis to the TORs was discussed with and agreed to by the Director, DAPH immediately on arrival of the consultant in Kandy.

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1.2 Work done

The first third of the mission was spent in Colombo and Kandy reviewing and evaluating progress, since the initial consultancy mission under the TCP in August 1995, towards RP control and progress along the OIE Pathway for official recognition of freedom from RP and its causative virus. Further recommendations for activities to achieve this objective were formulated and discussed. This was achieved through frank and open discussions with DAHP staff and visits to the relevant diagnostic laboratory facilities.

The second third was spent in assisting in making field staff aware of the requirements for rinderpest eradication, establishment of a data base and assisting in initial field sampling procedures for the serological survey, in order to test and refine the system.

The final third of the mission period was spent attempting to establish the cELISA test for rinderpest in the DAPH laboratory, using samples obtained from the field, and training of the VIO dedicated to this work, along with the establishment of the serum bank.

1.3 Acknowledgements

The ready and friendly assistance of all persons met, particularly the staff of the DAPH is gratefully acknowledged. Special thanks are due to the Director DAPH for his support and to Dr Susima Kodituwakku DD(AH) for her untiring efforts to make my stay pleasant and assist in the technical activities, despite her busy work schedule and the inconveniences caused by numerous public holidays. Staff of the FAO offices in Bangkok, Colombo and Rome provided active and friendly support.

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2. MAIN FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS

2.1 Rinderpest status

There appears to be no change in the country status for rinderpest from that reported in the consultant mission in 1995. No outbreaks of rinderpest have been reported since 1994 and the DAPH is unaware of any suspected outbreaks since then.

Although it is generally accepted that the difficulties produced by the security situation in the NEP make it impossible to be sure of the degree of vaccine coverage and disease surveillance in those areas, it is believed that if disease was present it would be reported to the DAPH. Furthermore, if rinderpest is still present in the NEP, then the largely uncontrolled movement of animals from this zone would probably result in the transfer of disease to the non-immune cattle in the rest of the country. This in turn would result in clinical cases of rinderpest being detected and reported outside of the NEP. As there have been no reports of rinderpest outside the NEP since 1992, the indications are that rinderpest is no longer present in the country as a whole.

In conclusion the risks of disease outbreaks is now low and it is possible that rinderpest has been eradicated from Sri Lanka. Vigilance must be maintained, however, through improved surveillance and investigation activities, in order to ensure disease freedom and rapid diagnosis and containment of disease outbreaks should they occur.

2.2 Rinderpest Policy and implementation

The rinderpest control policy remains as reported by the 1995 mission, with continued zonation into Infected Zone, Intensive Surveillance Zone and Low Risk Zone. Mass vaccination in the IZ continues to be applied wherever possible, but was suspended in the ISZ and LRZ in 1993. With the exception of the DAPH serological survey, which commenced in April 1997 in the ISZ and LRZ, surveillance has still not been significantly strengthened.

There are presently no differences in surveillance, investigation and control activities between the ISZ and the LRZ, and the serological survey design treats both of these zones as one epidemiological area.

The TCP 1995 mission consultant advised that with continuing absence of reports of rinderpest from the field, the commencement of normal levels of surveillance in the NEP and increased efficiency of surveillance elsewhere, the ISZ and the LRZ could be subject to a Declaration of Provisional Freedom from Disease.

Based on the fact that vaccination against rinderpest was suspended in the ISZ and LRZ in 1993 and no cases of rinderpest have since been reported from these areas, the Director DAPH is preparing to make a written Declaration of Provisional Freedom of Disease, to OIE, for these two zones, in May 1997.

Unfortunately, the security situation in the NEP continues to prevent normal surveillance procedures in that zone being performed. Movement control from this zone to the rest of the country remains problematical and it has not proved possible to implement increased efficiency of surveillance elsewhere.

Taking the above into account, together with the proposals to import livestock from India (as detailed below), it would appear premature to make a Declaration of Provisional Freedom from Disease on a zonal basis at this stage.

Consideration should be given to changing the policy on rinderpest control. The present policy should be continued up until the end of 1997. During this period the vaccination campaign in the NEP planned for late 1997 should be completed using the conventional rinderpest vaccine remaining in the central vaccine store. In addition, the serological survey should be completed in the rest of the country and the proposed import of livestock accomplished. Following this, vaccination should be suspended in the whole of Sri Lanka, including the NEP. National disease surveillance and reporting procedures should be further improved and a Declaration of Provisional Freedom from Disease made to the OIE at the end of 1997, on a national basis, providing no disease outbreaks are reported before then.

The 100,000 doses of thermostable vaccine, to be procured under the TCP project, should be stored in the central vaccine store for use in ring vaccination in the case of disease outbreaks.

With improved disease surveillance and reporting procedures supported by the EU project, progress can then be made along the OIE Pathway to rinderpest eradication, so that, at the end of the three years of project activities, a Declaration of Freedom from Disease (with the possibility of a Declaration of Freedom from Infection) can be made, on a National basis.

2.3 Movement and movement control

It is fair to say that the amount of stock movement between the IZ and the rest of the country remains unknown, although it is generally believed to be limited in numbers.

No authorised movement out of the NEP is allowed but enforcement of movement control is unlikely to improve until the security situation normalises. The necessity to remove the responsibility for livestock movement control from the police to the DAPH remains.

2.4 Importation of livestock

The Ministry of LD&RI has plans to allow the importation of cattle and goats from India into Sri Lanka. The DAPH has advised against this, due to the potential risk of importing rinderpest and peste des petits ruminants, together with the possibility that attempts to declare Sri Lanka Provisionally Free from Disease would be compromised. Importation of livestock from areas not considered rinderpest free would indeed prevent or, at least delay, progress towards international recognition for disease freedom and pose considerable risk of importation of the above diseases with all the risks to the national livestock population which this would involve.

If the decision to import these animals is made, irrespective of DAPH advice to the contrary, then the possibility of importing these animals from zones of India declared to be disease free, without compromising the rinderpest disease situation in Sri Lanka, should be explored, including consultation with OIE regarding guidelines and consequences.

Additional measures would still need to be taken to prevent the importation of peste des petits ruminants, as entrance of this disease would not only seriously affect the health of the sheep/goat population but would also confound national control and surveillance measures for rinderpest.

2.5 Rinderpest control and surveillance

The report of the 1995 TCP mission recommended the implementation of a national surveillance programme with three components: public awareness, surveillance by field staff and a serological survey.

2.5.1 Public rinderpest awareness campaign

The recommended strategy for the campaign was for the RVSs to arrange a series of public meetings to explain :

the national strategy for eradication

the need for awareness and rapid reporting

the signs of rinderpest

the provisions of an incentive scheme.

The proposed incentive scheme was to implement a bounty system for the reporting of a suspect case of rinderpest, if subsequently confirmed as positive on laboratory analysis, with an equal reward being paid to the RVS investigating the case.

As it was proposed that finance for this was to come from the planned EU project, neither the incentive scheme nor the awareness campaign have come into effect. Due to the importance of this campaign in raising public awareness and incentives for disease reporting this should be made a priority activity once the EU project commences. The DAPH has the facility of a weekly one hour slot on national radio which it could utilise for extending public awareness of the National Rinderpest Eradication Programme (NREP).

It is essential to ensure that senior staff within the Ministry of LD&RI are kept informed of project objectives and activities in order for them to fully understand the necessity to maintain commitment to these objectives at the higher levels of government. Only in this way can policy decision making support, rather than defeat these objectives. A rinderpest eradication programme awareness campaign should therefore include information transfer to senior policy making staff, in addition to junior staff.

2.5.2 Surveillance by field staff

Training

The 1995 TCP mission reported training of key RVSs from the NEP and bordering areas in the field investigation of rinderpest but the proposed training of LDIs by the RVSs has not taken place. This is due, in part, to the need for further copies of the PARC field manual 'Recognising Rinderpest'. The serosurvey manual recommended for distribution and use as further training material has not been copied and distributed. The DAPH report that there have been monthly meetings at provincial level at which RVSs have been kept informed of project activities and reporting requirements.

The EU project will need to explore the possibilities of obtaining and distributing these and other training materials to the field and initiating further training of both RVSs and LDIs in this area.

During the present mission a rinderpest workshop was held in the NWP in order train DAPH field staff in the recognition of rinderpest and the importance of disease and serological surveillance. Staff from this area were chosen for inclusion in the workshop as they had not been included in workshops conducted during the 1995 TCP mission and this area contains the greatest number (88) of sampling sites.

Transport

The recommendation that the EU project should provide vehicles for RVSs and motor-cycles for the LDIs has been included by the DAPH in the project proposal.

Improved transport facilities for field staff remains an essential requirement in disease surveillance and investigation activities.

Rinderpest Rumour Registers

The Rinderpest Rumour Registers recommended by the 1995 TCP mission have not been put into effect, mainly because it is considered by the DAPH that present registration of clinical treatments by the RVSs, together with monthly reporting procedures through the VICs adequately covers all disease investigation activities, including suspicious rinderpest outbreaks. It is also felt that there would be resistance by the RVSs to maintain these additional registers, particularly as most RVSs believe that rinderpest has been eradicated.

The above records containing all