26 August 2021, Washington: The U.S. Department of Agriculture is dedicating $300 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding to conduct surveillance for SARS-CoV-2 and other emerging and zoonotic diseases in susceptible animals and build an early warning system to alert public health partners to potential threats so they can take steps sooner to prevent or limit the next global pandemic.
USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is the lead agency responsible for implementing the early warning system and is inviting public comment on a Strategic Framework (PDF, 386 KB) that outlines how the Agency will focus its efforts to prevent, detect, investigate and respond to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, as well as other emerging and zoonotic diseases that could pose a threat to both people and animals.
“Up to 75 percent of emerging infectious diseases in humans can also impact the health of animals—we’ve seen this link firsthand with COVID-19,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, we have a unique opportunity to improve our understanding of disease susceptibility and transmission and build a comprehensive, data-driven system that promotes collaboration among the many experts working to protect the health of livestock, wildlife, people and pets. These meaningful changes will pay long-term dividends for the entire One Health community, as we all work together to achieve the best outcomes for people, animals and plants in a shared environment.”
APHIS’ Strategic Framework (PDF, 386 KB) uses the One Health approach, which embraces the idea that complex problems that affect the health of humans, animals, and the environment are best solved through improved communication, cooperation, and collaboration across disciplines and sectors. APHIS’ immediate focus will be on expanding surveillance for SARS-CoV-2 to a wider range of animal species (including domestic species and wild animals), increasing diagnostic testing capability and capacity and conducting multisectoral investigations of new animal detections and exposures.
Establishing an early warning system that will help protect both people and animals from future disease threats will require a multi-year effort. USDA will build upon its existing infrastructure to implement a risk-based, comprehensive, integrated disease monitoring and surveillance system domestically, and enhance collaborations with national, regional, and global partners to build additional capacity for zoonotic disease surveillance and prevention using a One Health approach. This holistic approach will benefit all of animal agriculture and the wildlife community by expanding our ability to collect surveillance data and increase our diagnostic and epidemiologic capacity, which will better enable us to rapidly detect and respond to new disease threats and provide early warning intelligence to our public health partners.
The Strategic Framework (PDF, 386 KB) builds on APHIS’ proven expertise responding to and eradicating foreign animal disease outbreaks, such as the large-scale U.S. outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza in 2015. By leveraging that expertise and strengthening partnerships with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others in the One Health community, APHIS can expand the federal government’s readiness and ability to respond to emerging and zoonotic diseases as needed. This investment under the American Rescue Plan will ultimately help prevent and minimize the negative impacts of COVID-19 and other emerging and zoonotic diseases on animal health, the economy, public health and food security.
The Strategic Framework (PDF, 386 KB) provides additional details and is available on the APHIS website. The Agency will also be hosting a series of webinars to give interested stakeholders the opportunity to learn more about the framework and ask questions before submitting written comments.
The 45-day public comment period opens today and closes on October 8, 2021. Interested stakeholders can submit written comments via Regulations.gov. Comments will be reviewed in accordance with Agency posting guidelines and will be viewable on Regulations.gov. APHIS will review all written comments, incorporate feedback as appropriate and share the final framework, which will serve as our roadmap for implementation.
USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America.