Today, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it is dedicating $300 million in funding from the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act (i.e., federal law enacted to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, including the public health and economic impacts) to (1) conduct surveillance for SARS-CoV-2 (i.e., the virus that causes COVID-19) and other emerging and zoonotic diseases in susceptible animals, and (2) build an early warning system to alert public health partners to potential health threats so they can take steps sooner to prevent or limit the next global pandemic.
USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) will take the lead in implementing the early warning system and is inviting public comment on a Strategic Framework it has developed to focus its efforts on preventing, detecting, investigating, and responding to SARS-CoV-2 and other emerging and zoonotic diseases that could pose a threat to both people and animals.
APHIS’ framework uses the One Health approach, which views the problems that affect the health of humans, animals, and the environment as best solved through improved communication, cooperation, and collaboration across disciplines and sectors.
Establishing an early warning system that will help protect both people and animals from future disease threats will require a multi-year effort. Within the U.S., USDA will build upon its existing infrastructure to implement a risk-based, comprehensive, integrated disease monitoring and surveillance system. Internationally, USDA will increase collaborations with national, regional, and global partners to build additional capacity for zoonotic disease surveillance and prevention. These efforts are intended to expand USDA’s data collection and diagnostic and epidemiologic capacities. Additionally, the Strategic Framework is intended to expand the federal government’s readiness and ability to respond to emerging and zoonotic diseases as needed.
A 45-day public comment period is now open, and closes on October 8, 2021. Interested stakeholders can submit written comments via Regulations.gov. APHIS will review all written comments, incorporate feedback as appropriate and share the final framework, which will serve as the agency’s roadmap for implementation. APHIS 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. Webinars are scheduled on Tuesday, August 31 for Tribal Representatives; Wednesday, September 1 for the general public; Wednesday, September 8 for socially disadvantaged producers and related organizations; and Wednesday, September 15 for the general public.
The American Kennel Club’s Government Relations Department (AKC GR) will fully analyze the proposed framework and provide additional information in the coming weeks. For more information, contact AKC GR at firstname.lastname@example.org.