From time to time, we like to offer a platform to focus on our Partners and the work they do in-country. Here is quick overview of the Surveillance Programs of the viral diseases implemented with our Greek partner MINAGRIC:
Greece implements several Surveillance Programs regarding many diseases and due to its geographical position since it is considered the crossroads between three continents. This article presents briefly the main Surveillance Programs that are associated with viral diseases.
Thrace Surveillance activities
The Thrace Active Surveillance program is implemented in the Regional Unit (RU) of Evros, which is a high risk area in Greece and includes 5 distinct sub-regions Orestiada, Didymoteicho, Soufli, Alexandroupoli, Feres (Fig. 1). In accordance with the program, the following activities are performed:
ü Clinical surveillance in small ruminants for Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), Peste de Petit Ruminant (PPR) and Sheep and Goat Pox (SGP), in cattle for FMD and Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD)
ü Serological surveillance in small ruminants for FMD and PPR
Due to the geographical location and importance of the area (borders with Turkey and Bulgaria) a multi-country FMD tabletop simulation exercise was performed at 30.11-02.12.2021. Official veterinarians from the central and local Veterinary Authorities, as well as from the National Reference Laboratories of each country took part. The aims of the exercise were to assess response procedures in case of a Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) outbreak occurring simultaneously in the border areas of endemic and non-endemic countries/regions and to evaluate the level of preparedness and cooperation during animal health emergencies.
Program for Rabies Eradication and Control
No cases of rabies have been reported in humans – since 1970 – or animals – since 2014 – in Greece. Thus, on 01.12.2020 the Director of Animal Health Directorate, on behalf of the Directorate General of Veterinary Medicine of the Ministry of Rural Development and Food, informed (Document with Ref. No: 2928/336922) the Directorate – General for Health and Food Safety of the European Commission about the submission of the information to apply for a declaration from Greece of its Rabies-free status.
Since Spring 2021,Greece is listed in Part I of Annex III of the Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2021/620 of 15 April 2021 and the country is approved as a Member State with disease-free status from infection with rabies virus (RABV).
In Greece, the Program for Rabies Eradication and Control is implemented through biannual Oral Rabies Vaccination campaigns for the immunization of the red foxes, together with monitoring for the evaluation of the immunization and extensive passive surveillance for the early detection of the presence of the disease. The main objective of the program is the maintenance of the disease-free status.
The oral vaccination campaigns for the immunization of wildlife were first launched in autumn/winter 2013, while the second campaign took place in autumn/winter 2014, the third in autumn/winter 2015. Since then, ten more ORV campaigns were implemented biannually, with the 13th campaign in autumn 2020. The spring 2022 ORV (14th) campaign started on 07.04.2022 and lasted until 15.04.2022.
From the autumn 2016 until 2020 campaigns, the total actual area covered per campaign was approximately 56.000km². While the initial estimation of the number of vaccines needed per campaign for the given vaccination area for the relevant years was 1.490.100.
Fig. 1: Evolution of the Vaccination area from 2013 (A) to spring 2016 (B) and from autumn 2016 until 2020
From 2022 onwards, a modification of the vaccination area and the number of vaccines needed for the given vaccination area has applied. More precisely, vaccine-baits are aerially distributed in 17 regional units of the country, to a 50km zone along the Greek land borders, so that the total size of area to be vaccinated will be reduced to 33.000 km² (30.000 km² excluding water surfaces, roads, urban and suburban areas as well as areas with altitude over 1.500m). While the initial estimation of the number of vaccines needed per campaign for the given vaccination area is 723.000.
Fig. 2: Map of the last vaccination area – 2022
In the framework of passive surveillance, all susceptible animals, in the whole Greek territory, that are found dead due to unknown reasons, are collected and delivered for testing to the National Reference Laboratory for Rabies in animals (NRL), which is located in the Virology Laboratory in Athens Veterinary Center. Moreover, dogs and other mammals found dead by unknown reason or after a road accident or a human exposure are also sent for testing. The majority, among the animal samples delivered for surveillance purposes (>90%), consists of red foxes.
In a very limited number of cases, susceptible species that show symptoms compatible with rabies or unreasonable aggression, if shot, they are sent for testing to the NRL for Rabies.
Active surveillance (Monitoring)
The evaluation of the effectiveness of the ORV starts thirty (30) days after the end of each campaign. The methods selected for monitoring are bait uptake testing, by the detection of biomarker presence in teeth of targeted population, together with the evaluation of immunization rates by ELISA test in serum samples of hunted red foxes.
Program for epizoological surveillance, prevention and control of African Swine Fever (ASF) of pigs on pig farms, control of biosecurity measures and enforcement measures in pig farms for the prevention of entry and prevention of its spread African Swine Fever virus.
The purpose of this program is:
1) Prevention and control of the African Swine Fever through Active and Passive Surveillance of the disease in pig farms throughout the territory.
2) The implementation of biosecurity measures and the control of these in pig farms to prevent the entry and spread of the ASF virus.
Passive and Active Surveillance of African Swine Fever in pig farms
The epizootic surveillance program of ASF is implemented with the application of Passive Surveillance in pigs throughout the territory, with the collection and laboratory examination of blood and tissue samples, dead pigs or pigs with suspicious symptoms or patho-anatomical findings compatible with ASF.
Especially in the prohibited areas, according to Executive Regulation (EU) 2021/605, as well as in the areas characterized as high risk, the competent veterinary authorities carry out sampling in any systematic pig breeding operation. Additionally, within the framework of this program and by decision of the Head of General Director of Veterinary Medicine, blood samples from pigs without suspicious symptoms are collected from all the Regional Units of the country, depending on the epidemiological evolution of the disease and the risk analysis. Moreover, in the forbidden areas according to the Executive Regulation (EU) 2021/605, as well as in the areas characterized as high risk, the competent veterinary authorities carry out sampling of the pigs to be moved.
The control of biosecurity measures is carried out by on-site visits by veterinarians of the competent veterinary services in all pig farms in the territory, at a frequency of at least once per year with based on risk analysis, and includes:
1) Informing the managers of pig farms
2) Pig marking control
3) The registration of all movements of pigs to and from the holding
4) The clinical examination of the farm’s pigs and sampling
5) The control of compliance of the biosecurity measures by the pig farms
Surveillance and Action Program for the protection of the livestock of Greece, from Exotic Diseases: Lumpy Skin Disease, Foot and Mouth Disease, Peste de Petit Ruminants and Sheep-pox.
The purpose of the Program is:
a) The prevention of the spread of Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD) through the implementation of mandatory vaccination in sensitive species throughout the Greek Territory.
b) Early diagnosis of specific Diseases through active and passive systems surveillance:
bi) The active surveillance of the specific program is applied in high risk areas:
· clinical surveillance for FMD and Sheep-pox
· serological surveillance for FMD and Peste de petit ruminants
bii) Passive surveillance is applied throughout of the Greek Territory for all the aforementioned Diseases
The Department of Infectious and Parasitic Diseases of the Animal Health Directorate of the General Directorate of Veterinary Medicine of the Ministry of Rural Development and Food, is the Central Competent Authority for the specific program. The Information Systems Development Department and Digital Services, of the Electronics Directorate of Governance of the General Directorate of Administrative Services and Electronic Government participates in the design of the electronic applications that meet its requirements program. The Department of Molecular Diagnostics, Foot and Mouth Disease, Viral, Rickettsial and Exotic Diseases of the Directorate of the Veterinary Center of Athens, performs the laboratory analyzes required to meet the needs of the program. The Veterinary Authorities of the Regions and of Regional Units of the whole of Greek territory are responsible for the implementation of the program vaccination for Bovine Nodular Dermatitis as well as for the passive surveillance of Diseases in their area of responsibility.
Classical Swine Fever (CSF) and Swine Vesicular Disease (SVD) Surveillance Program
The aim of the Program is to maintain the status as “officially exempt from CSF of an EU member state”, such as this was recognized by Decision 90/251/EEC Commission of 22 May 1990 (EU no. L143/06.06.90, p. 10), as well as the early diagnosis of cases CSF and SVD.
This goal is achieved by:
– The constant information and vigilance of the owners/animal owners of pig farms and of all the Veterinary Authorities and Agencies involved, as well as
– Maintenance of the expertise of the Veterinary Laboratories, regarding the methods and techniques of diagnosis of CSF and SVD, in order to obtain fast and reliable results.
Blue Tongue disease (BT) surveillance program
The objectives of the program are:
(a) The systematic investigation and differential diagnosis, with application of appropriate laboratory techniques to cattle and sheep, through passive and active surveillance.
(b) In case of seroconversion and/or virus detection of BT in a tested animal, immediate action is required for further research (clinical and laboratory) to exclude or not the circulation of the BT virus.
(c) Research, through entomological surveillance, of the species and distribution of Culicoides hosts in the country.
West Nile (WN) Surveillance Program in equidae, birds and in other animals susceptible to the virus
The objectives of the program are:
a) Registration of all the equine farms of the country
b) Passive Surveillance of equines, wild birds and other animals susceptible to WN virus
c) Active Surveillance of the WN virus in horses and wild birds.
with thanks to Dr Aikaterini Kirtzalidou, Ministry of Rural Development & Food Directorate, Department of Molecular Diagnostics, FMD, Virological, Rickettsial & Exotic Diseases
Acknowledgements to Ch. Dile, El. Fragkou, G. Komitas, I. Georgopoulou