Animal Disease Preparedness

Any farmer must call a veterinarian right away, if he suspects a notifiable disease. The veterinarian must immediately notify the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration, if he suspects a disease on list 1 of the notifiable diseases in Denmark.

Legislative ba​​sis for the notifiable diseases

​The Danish Animal Health Act is the legislative basis for the current notification procedures. The Act also lays down the list of notifiable animal diseases in Denmark and the rules for the notification of suspected cases of those diseases. 

Furthermore, the Act gives legal powers to carr​y out diagnostic and epidemiological investigations, impose movement restrictions, create protection and surveillance zones, control movements within such zones, take samples, cull infected and in-contact animals, pay compensation to farmers, destroy carcasses and potentially infective materials, carry out cleaning and disinfection and, if necessary, carry out emergency vaccination.

The notifiable animal diseases listed in Executive Order No. 532 of 25 May 2018 are divided into two groups: list 1 and list 2. 

Any suspicion of a disease on list 1 must immediately be notified to the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration (DVFA), whereas notification of a disease on list 2 is only mandatory after confirmation of the disease. 

​The Danish list 1 of notifiable diseases includes all serious diseases in animals as well as several zoonotic diseases.

Obligation to notify suspicion of animal diseases

Effective surveillance for clinical signs of contagious diseases is required for early detection of disease outbreaks. According to the Animal Health Act, all farmers are obliged to call a veterinarian right away in case of suspicion of a notifiable disease. 

If the veterinarian suspects a list 1 disease, the veterinarian must immediately notify the relevant Veterinary Inspection Unit (VIU) of the DVFA. A veterinary officer from the VIU will inspect the herd within a specified number of hours (three or five hours depending on whether the suspicion has arisen in a slaughterhouse or at a farm) and make a report to the DVFA on the suspected case. 

​If the veterinary officer cannot rule out the suspicion of a list 1 disease, official restrictions are imposed on the herd, and test material is collected and dispatched to the National Reference Laboratory.

As a second line of defence, official veterinarians are responsible for inspecting all animals at shows as well as animals intended for production, slaughter or export at assembly centres and animals intended for export directly from the herd premises. Also ante-mortem inspection and post-mortem examination at slaughterhouses are important elements of the surveillance system.

A high level of awareness among farmers and private veterinarians is required to ensure notification of even the slightest suspicion of a notifiable disease. Generally, the level of education among Danish farmers is high. Information of disease symptoms and significant disease events in EU countries and other parts of the world are made readily available to the Danish farmers and veterinarians in farmers’ magazines, in the Danish Veterinary Journal, electronic newsletters, at farmers conferences, at veterinary conferences and at various websites, e.g. the website of the DVFA.

The DVFA ensures that all suspected cases are handled in a uniform way. Uniform handling is achieved by the application of ‘action cards’ developed for most of the notifiable diseases. The action cards, which are available on the DVFA intranet, list all necessary actions to be taken when handling a suspected case.

All suspected cases of a notifiable disease will immediately be published on the website of the DVFA. The official website of the DVFA displays information on each individual suspicion notified. This is done to increase the awareness among farmers and veterinarians of the potential presence of the relevant notifiable disease.

If a suspected case is deemed to be of potential interest to the general public and/or export markets, the notice on the website will be followed up by a press release. Additionally, targeted information will be sent to the embassies of Denmark's main export markets.

The DVFA offers compensation to animal owners who suffer a financial loss due to a notifiable disease. The offer of compensation contributes significantly to animal owners' compliance with the obligation to notify listed diseases.

In case of an outbreak of a notifiable disease leading to a loss of animals and/or eggs and the destruction of contaminated feed, the DVFA offers compensation for the value of the animals, eggs and feed. In most outbreaks, this value is estimated by a valuation committee. The committee has three members: one appointed by the herd owner, one appointed by the DVFA and one being an employee of the DVFA. 

​The premises are cleaned and disinfected according to a fixed plan, the cleaning and disinfection being paid by the DVFA. Furthermore, the DVFA pays 20% of the estimated loss of income due to the disease outbreak. If the outbreak is in either cattle or pigs, the Cattle Levy Fund or the Pig Levy Fund will cover the remaining income loss.

Denmark has several pathogen-specific surveillance programmes intended to demonstrate the absence of diseases that usually cause insignificant clinical symptoms, or to determine the occurrence, prevalence or distribution of diseases. The surveillance method used depends on the disease and the purpose of the programme, and usually a combination of different surveillance methods is applied.

The DVFA focuses especially on infectious diseases with increased incidence in other countries and an epidemic potential, thus increasing the risk of their introduction into Denmark in the near future. The DVFA has implemented a rapid and systematic model to qualitatively evaluate the risk of disease introduction in case of disease outbreaks in other EU Member States or certain countries outside the EU.

Examples of Danish surveillance programmes for emerging diseases are given below:

  • Blood samples from outdoor poultry are tested for West Nile fever.

  • Cattle farmers are offered laboratory examination of material from abortions in the form of post-mortem examination and microbiological and histological examinations. Such an examination comprises an analysis for brucellosis, bovine virus diarrhoea and any new emerging infections causing abortion in cattle.

  • Samples from carcasses of swine submitted for post-mortem examination are tested for classical swine fever and African swine fever.

  • A special surveillance programme for porcine epidemic diarrhoea was initiated by the DVFA in 2014 and continued in 2018.