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A multi-country One Health foodborne outbreak simulation exercise: cross-sectoral cooperation, data sharing and communication

The awareness of scientists and policy makers regarding the requirement for an integrated One Health (OH) approach in responding to zoonoses has increased in recent years. However, there remains an overall inertia in relation to the implementation of practical cross-sector collaborations. Foodborne outbreaks of zoonotic diseases continue to affect the European population despite stringent regulations, evidencing the requirement for better ‘prevent, detect and response’ strategies. Response exercises play an essential role in the improvement of crisis management plans, providing the opportunity to test practical intervention methodologies in a controlled environment. The One Health European Joint Program simulation exercise (OHEJP SimEx) aimed at practicing the OH capacity and interoperability across public health, animal health and food safety sectors in a challenging outbreak scenario. The OHEJP SimEx was delivered through a sequence of scripts covering the different stages of a Salmonella outbreak investigation at a national level, involving both the human food chain and the raw pet feed industry. A total of 255 participants from 11 European countries (Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Italy, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, the Netherlands) took part in national level two-day exercises during 2022. National evaluations identified common recommendations to countries aiming to improve their OH structure to establish formal communication channels between sectors, implement a common data sharing platform, harmonise laboratory procedures, and reinforce inter-laboratory networks within countries. The large proportion of participants (94%) indicated significant interest in pursuing a OH approach and desire to work more closely with other sectors. The OHEJP SimEx outcomes will assist policy makers in implementing a harmonised approach to cross-sector health-related topics, by highlighting the benefits of cooperation, identifying gaps in the current strategies and suggesting actions required to better address foodborne outbreaks. Furthermore, we summarize recommendations for future OH simulation exercises, which are essential to continually test, challenge and improve national OH strategies.



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