Prevention and control of animal diseases

People who own or keep animals are responsible for their care and health. The Government has set a number of rules to monitor the health of kept animals. These rules largely concern the prevention, monitoring and control of animal diseases.

The Government has also set specific rules for a number of animal diseases, for example because of their potential social and economic impact or because they pose a threat to human health.

Animal health monitoring

The Government constantly monitors animal health in the Netherlands. This facilitates rapid changes in animal health policy, or immediate response to outbreaks of infectious diseases.

The Government has set three objectives in consultation with the sector:

  • To trace outbreaks of known diseases and pathogens that are not endemic (i.e. do not arise in nature) in the Netherlands;
  • To identify as yet unknown diseases;
  • To monitor trends and developments.

Prevention of animal diseases

To prevent the introduction and dissemination of animal diseases as far as possible, owners of animals must (among other things):

  • Do their best to keep animal diseases out of their business;
  • Ensure adequate hygiene;  
  • Be alert to symptoms of disease;
  • Comply with requirements when importing animals from other countries;
  • Notify a vet of any suspected animal disease.

When there is an increased risk of infectious animal diseases entering the country, more stringent supervision of animal transports is applied. These measures can be at farm or national level (e.g. a ban on imports from infected countries).

Travellers

There are some holiday destinations where infectious animal diseases, such as foot and mouth or bird flu, are prevalent. The Government therefore advises travellers to be careful about contact with animals abroad. Pathogens from these animals can be accidentally introduced into the Netherlands with travellers and their luggage.

There are also rules for travellers in respect of the importation of animals (in Dutch) and animal products (in Dutch), such as wool, processed meat or dairy products or hunting trophies. Bringing live animals or animal products into the Netherlands is prohibited.

Notifiable animal diseases

Stricter rules apply to certain animal diseases in terms of reporting, identification and control. These diseases are on the list of Notifiable animal diseases (in Dutch). When such diseases are notified the Ministry of EL&I can announce additional control measures.

  • The reasons for requiring notification of such animal diseases are as follows:
  • They can spread quickly;
  • They can cause serious damage to the species in question;
  • They cannot be prevented or controlled by normal commercial methods;
  • They present a serious threat to public health.

Animal diseases can also be designated as notifiable under international conventions.

Reporting animal diseases

If an animal shows symptoms of a notifiable animal disease, the owner, vet or laboratory must notify the authorities by telephoning the national desk for animal diseases: (045) 546 31 88. This 24-hour service is run by the new Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (nVWA).
Prompt reporting of an infectious animal disease or its symptoms is crucial. Without early reporting a disease can spread rapidly with potentially massive consequences for humans and animals.

Highly infectious animal diseases

The State is required to combat certain notifiable animal diseases. That means that the Government must always take measures to counter the spread of such diseases. The Minister of EL&I is responsible for this disease control, while the nVWA is responsible for implementation. These animal diseases are treated in accordance with European directives, which are elaborated in the national policy scenarios of the Ministry of EL&I. The approach is regulated in various scenarios.

Supplementary measures
The Minister for Agriculture and Foreign Trade can take measures over and above the policy scenarios. He is advised by the Chief Veterinary Officer and the Expert Groups.

Experts

There are currently four Expert Groups:

  • on ruminants;
  • on poultry;
  • on pigs;
  • on horses.

The experts are independent and are appointed by the Minister. The groups consist of epidemiologists, virologists, vets and (for example) experts in the field of wild flora and fauna.
Vaccination

There are two types of vaccination:

Preventive vaccination
Practically all farm animals are vaccinated against diseases. Poultry, cattle, pigs, sheep and goats are all routinely vaccinated against pathogens such as Newcastle disease in poultry and Q fever in goats. This helps to keep the animals healthy and has no harmful effect on their products (meat, milk, etc.).

Vaccination for disease control
In the case of certain highly infectious animal diseases such as Classical Swine Fever (CSF) and Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), emergency vaccination can be used a control measure. This counters the spread of the disease and prevents sickness in animals exposed to the infection. The Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation (EL&I) decides in consultation with the EU if and when vaccination should be deployed. The relevant procedure is set out in the Ministry’s policy scenarios.
The Rutte Government is campaigning within the EU for emergency vaccination as a control measure during outbreaks of highly infectious animal diseases.

List of animal diseases

The Central Veterinary Institute maintains a list of the most significant infectious animal diseases in the Netherlands (in Dutch), such as Q fever, avian flu, FMD, bluetongue, swine fever and BSE.