ARCHIVED - Pandemic H1N1 2009 Pig Farm Outbreak - CFIA Lessons Learned

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Review

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency's (CFIA) Evaluation Directorate is responsible for evaluating the relevance and performance of agency programs, policies and initiatives. This effort supports informed decision-making and enhances performance and accountability.

The Evaluation Directorate is accountable to the CFIA's Evaluation Committee, chaired by the President. All evaluations must be reported to the Evaluation Committee and must be conducted in accordance with the Treasury Board's 2009 Policy on Evaluation. Evaluation projects such as this review are undertaken as part of ongoing efforts for the CFIA to improve its programs and policies.

Overview

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) conducted an internal review of the pandemic H1N1 outbreak in a pig farm in 2009, and this report summarizes the CFIA's lessons learned from that situation. The CFIA routinely conducts lessons learned or post-incident reviews following exceptional situations to

  • assess the relevance and effectiveness of policies and procedures; and
  • identify what worked well and what needs improvement.

This review was carried out between June and November 2010, based on analysis of documents and interviews with 36 CFIA staff members and managers as well as provincial and industry representatives in Alberta, Winnipeg and Ottawa.

The CFIA has dealt with a number of animal health emergencies since 2003 when the first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in an indigenous animal was detected. The Agency has made improvements to its emergency planning and response procedures based on experience.

However, this report noted that the 2009 H1N1 pandemic presented unique challenges, including the risk of human-to-animal transmission. The potential threat to human health from infected swine was also a concern, as was the impact on the pork industry when countries began imposing trade restrictions on Canadian exports.

Key Findings

The review found that the CFIA was mostly well prepared for the outbreak. Roles and responsibilities for CFIA staff responding to this incident were, for the most part, well understood and followed. Sufficient guidance was provided via animal health and emergency management procedure manuals and plans. The CFIA reinforced its collaboration with the Public Health Agency of Canada in the assessment of animal health and public health risks associated with zoonotic diseases (diseases that can be transmitted between animals and people).

The report also noted that the CFIA needs to ensure that training of front-line staff on the use of personal protective equipment and the shipping of biological samples continues to be a key part of emergency preparedness.

Recommendations and response

The CFIA continually improves its programs and protocols. Management's commitment to addressing recommendations made by internal reviews like this one is a critical part of that continual improvement.

The Agency has developed a management response action plan to address the opportunities for improvement identified by these lessons learned.

1. The report recommended that the CFIA's Operations Branch make sure that its front-line responders to animal health emergencies have the relevant emergency response training.

The CFIA is fully committed to providing all front-line responders to animal health emergencies with the relevant emergency response training. Since 2009, the CFIA's Western Area has completed training on the proper use of personal protective equipment and protocols for the transportation of dangerous goods. Since 2010, training took place nationally. The CFIA is also identifying ongoing training needs for animal disease emergency response preparedness.

2. The report recommended that an occupational health and safety (OHS) advisory position be located at an Incident Command level for all suspected zoonotic outbreaks.

The CFIA recognizes that it is imperative at the field and regional levels that the OHS advisor position be located as an advisor to the incident commander. At the CFIA national and area levels, the role and responsibilities of the OHS officer was reviewed and remains reporting to the Logistics Chief in the Incident Command Structure.

Complete report:

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