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Assessing the risk of disease introduction in imports
  1. Helen Roberts,
  2. Mia Carbon,
  3. Matt Hartley and
  4. Mirzet Sabirovic*
  1. International Disease Monitoring, Veterinary Science Team, Defra, 17 Smith Square, London SW1P 3JR
  1. e-mail: helen.roberts{at}

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Helen Roberts and other members of Defra's International Disease Monitoring, Veterinary Science Team describe how Defra calculates the risk of an exotic disease being introduced into the UK and introduce a tool that helps in assessing that risk

THERE is a continual low risk of the introduction of an exotic disease into the UK and the EU from an affected region, such as Africa, the Middle East and Central/East Asia, but occasionally that risk level can be raised when a particularly high-risk route becomes more prominent. For example, if migratory wild birds with highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) were reported in northern Europe, the risk of an incursion of HPAI into the UK poultry industry may be increased, depending on the species of bird and the migration season. Likewise, an outbreak of disease in domestic livestock in a country from which the UK imports that species will trigger an increase in risk.

Defra currently considers that there would be a negligible risk of an exotic disease being introduced from an affected country through legal imports because of the system of approval and certification laid down in EU law for countries approved for export to the EU. Before a non-EU country is approved to export, it must have an acceptable disease status, the recognised standard for relevant control authorities, and guarantees regarding compliance with EU import rules. All live animals and products of animal origin (POAO) imported from non-EU countries must be accompanied by veterinary certification. Such imports are checked at approved facilities at Border Inspection Posts.

However, there would be an increased risk of disease introduction if, for some reason, the certification process had failed, either due to fraud or if an infected consignment was certified in good faith before the disease was detected in the country of origin. …

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