The Southwest of France raises different species of poultry. These production activities present structural vulnerabilities to severe infectious diseases such as highly pathogenic avian influenza. Indeed, many farms have free-range flocks, multi-age and multi-species productions, while being located near wild bird migratory corridors. These factors may partly explain the H5 virus epidemics that occurred between 2015 and 2021. Their serious economic and technical consequences and psychological impact have generated solidarity, collective learning and operational cohesiveness among all poultry professionals. Consequently, a decision was made to conduct annual simulation exercises for a major health event in order to maintain a high level of vigilance and responsiveness within different poultry sectors. Three exercises took place, in 2017, 2018 and 2019, in semi-real conditions (real dates and compressed time) and according to different scenarios. They took place outside an epidemic context and have in common to focus on the initial phase of the crisis (suspicions, results of preliminary analyzes), which is critical to assess the reactivity of industry personnel in order to mitigate infectious disease spread. The preparation of the simulation exercises was based on a common methodology. They were created by an organizing team and each included up to 60 people (industry personnel, observers and auditors). These simulations highlighted several critical points: poultry professionals have detailed knowledge of the field, but this information can only be effectively obtained and used if there is already a poultry industry decision-making structure in place (with good networking); there is a need (1) for better information sharing within the industry; (2) to develop an assistance structure for producers directly involved in a crisis; and (3) to increase collaboration with State services in peacetime. Finally, several technical issues were raised regarding control zones; blocking poultry movements; production site quarantine; depopulation strategies; self-financing capacity of the poultry industry in the absence of governmental involvement; and enhanced mapping tools with real-time traceability of animal transportation.
Copyright © 2022. Published by Elsevier B.V.