Thursday, September 3, 2015

FAO Training/Workshop on Epizootic ulcerative syndrome (EUS): Lusaka, Zambia 24-27 August 2015

Report by: H. Skrypzeck and Mikael Nekundi Ekandjo 


The symptoms of fish sickness with unknown infection were first discovered on the Namibian part of the Chobe River during October 2006. Namibia through the Zambezi/Chobe Fisheries project headed by Dr. Ben van Der Waal by then, contacted the other two countries sharing the Zambezi/Chobe Fisheries resources (Botswana and Zambia) to alert them of a suspected infection that is affecting the fish. Namibia and Botswana undertook water samples from the Chobe as well as other nearby water bodies. These analyses were mainly bacteriological in nature. Botswana further invited two experts from Rhodes University. They found out that, the infections were due to a severe granulomatous mycosis, closely resembling those of Aphanomyces invadans. The Botswana government went further to request the FAO to send a technical team for further investigation of this disease. This technical team was able to isolate the fungi that cause the infection, the Aphanomyces invadans and they relate the disease to Epizootic Ulcerative Syndrome (EUS) a fish disease mainly common in Asia. Several training workshops of this nature have been carried out before, the last one was held in South Africa. The expectations from previous training were for participating countries, affected countries to carry out surveillance activities within their countries. These surveillances only lasted for two year 2007-2008 for Namibia and Botswana leaving only Zambia as the only country that have been doing some work on this, with Zimbabwe coming out now. 

Therefore this refresher course was called to further encourage participating countries to continue with the surveillance work on EUS disease. Namibia was represented by Heidi Skrypzeck the OIE focal person and Mikael Ekandjo from the Directorate of Aquaculture and Inland Fisheries in the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Namibia

The project GCP/SFS/001/MUL Strengthening Controls of Food safety, Plant and Animal Pests and Diseases for Agricultural Productivity and Trade in Southern Africa funded by the African Solidarity Trust Fund and being implemented by FAO has the following goals of:

• Providing regional support to countries to improve monitoring of pests and diseases and episodes of contamination of food as well as the environment and to respond timely and adequately to address food safety, plant health and animal health issues;
• Ensuring full compliance of the agreed international norms of the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures; and.
• Contributing to increased agricultural productivity and facilitate regional and international trade for improved food and nutrition security in the SADC region.

The project’s expected outcome and impact are:
 Outcome: reduced incidences of occurrence of food contamination, animal and plant pests and diseases and their impact on the productivity of food crops, livestock, fisheries and forest resources as well as enhanced safe trade.
 Impact: improved food and nutrition security and enhanced terms of inter- and intra-regional trade for the SADC Region.

There are five focus areas: plant health, animal health, food safety, forestry and fisheries & aquatic animal health. Nine countries have participated, namely: Angola, Botswana, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The FAO Training/Workshop on Epizootic ulcerative syndrome (EUS): biology, pathology, diagnostics and design of an active surveillance programme – will contribute to achieving Output 3 (Strengthened institutional and technical capacity in the implementation of SPS measures in accordance with international standards and in accordance with country and regional needs) – of the above project. EUS is recognized as one of the most serious transboundary aquatic animal diseases (TAADs) and a priority for the region alongside with koi herpesvirus (KHV) of koi carp and white spot syndrome virus (WSSV) of shrimp. An active EUS surveillance is also identified as a priority activity (Activity 19: Establish national and regional surveillance programmes for three priority diseases (EUS, KHV, WSSV) under Programme 6: Surveillance, Monitoring and Reporting Regional Aquatic Biosecurity Strategy for the Southern African Development Community (SADC), developed under FAO guidance and recently endorsed by the SADC Technical Committee.

An active surveillance on EUS was launched in 2007 under a previous FAO project TCP/RAF/3111 during the first-time incursion of EUS in the region (late 2006). After the project terminated, only few countries were able to continue the surveillance activities. Meanwhile, the disease has further spread to South Africa, Zambia, Angola and DR Congo. Because of the high risk of EUS spreading further, launching of an active surveillance has become timely.

Participants and Resource Experts. Two selected official participants from each of the participating countries (Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe) have participated in this training/workshop. It is further expected that these two participants will perform the tasks as outlined below.

The purpose of the workshop was to develop a national EUS active surveillance programme (design and implementation plan) for the 9 participating countries.

Process. The development and implementation of an EUS active/targeted surveillance will require several tasks/activities. The selected participants from the 9 participating countries were expected to fulfill the following tasks, prior to, during and after the training/workshop:

Prior to the training/workshop
 Fill up a questionnaire that will be circulated prior to the workshop concerning information on the status of EUS in the country and other information requirements needed in the development of an EUS active/targeted surveillance plan
 Coordinate with concerned official who has been involved in EUS surveillance work under the FAO TCP/RAF/3111 implemented during 2007-2009
 Bring a dedicated laptop and relevant documents needed to support the development of a surveillance plan

During the training/workshop
 Participate in the EUS refresher course (2.5 days) and the Development of a country level EUS Active/Targetted Surveillance Plan (2.5 days)
 Prepare a 15-20 min presentation (template of information will be provided)
 Based on learning/knowledge acquired, develop a country level EUS Active/Targetted Surveillance Plan including an implementation plan

Heidi Skrypzeck: taking a closer look during the practical training at the workshop

After the training/workshop
 Implement the EUS Active/Targetted Surveillance Plan developed during the workshop during the period August 2015 to May 2016
 Liaise with Dr Nihad Fejzic ( to ensure that surveillance data collection and data entry are correct
 Provide regular progress reporting using a time-frame agreed during the workshop
 Liaise with FAO ( regarding technical and administrative requirements needed for the surveillance work
 Participate in the second workshop to be held during 2016

Products. The expected outcomes of this training/workshop include:
 Enhanced knowledge on EUS
 Enhanced capacity in developing an active surveillance programme for EUS
 National EUS surveillance programme (design and implementation plan)

The workshop was divided into 4 sessions addressing the following:
1.     Session 1 (Day 1 to 3): Health and diseases of aquatic animals and Epizootic ulcerative syndrome (EUS). Learning objectives: To learn the basics of health and diseases of aquatic animals, types of aquatic diseases, aquatic disease prevention and control and detailed knowledge about EUS (historical background, current distribution, taxonomy, life cycle, survival in host/environment, diagnostics, risk profile, risk management, and laboratory procedures).

Ten presentations were given followed with a Laboratory session. The laboratory session’s learning objectives were to learn about fish anatomy, necropsy of normal and diseased fish and laboratory methods for EUS disease diagnosis. Fish anatomy, necropsy (normal fish), necropsy (fish with ulcer), preparation of agar plate and broth, isolation from diseased fish, identification from morphological characteristics,  reisolation using agar plate, drug sensitivity test in vitro using hyphae or zoospores; EUS histopathology.

2.     Session 2 (Day 4): Development of active/targeted EUS Surveillance:  Learning objectives: To understand the basics of surveillance as an epidemiological tool to understanding disease in a population and to gain experience in designing an active surveillance for EUS including implementation plan. Thirteen presentations were given.

3.     Session 3 (Day 4 and 5): National EUS active surveillance plan and implementation (to be critiqued by resource experts). Each country drafted and presented their own active surveillance EUS programme that was critiqued by resource experts.

4.     Session 5 (Day 5): Conclusions and the way forward

EUS is a listed OIE disease whereby the Ministry is obligated to report this disease to the OIE via the OIE delegate (MAWF). This project GCP/SFS/001/MUL will assist Namibia to develop and implement an EUS surveillance programme by receiving training in the ID and sampling procedures, processing of data and providing a toolkit (some equipment and consumables). In exchange, this project requires from the Ministry to implement the EUS active surveillance programme as soon as possible (hopefully by the end of October 2015) since data is required to be collected within 12 months to ensure that risk analysis training (from the collected data) can happen in the follow-up workshop (planned for October 2016).

EUS threatens the Namibian Inland Fisheries and the freshwater aquaculture sector by causing high mortalities in fish. This fish disease is a transboundary concern and is causing at the moment devastation in the fish stocks (wild and cultured) of Zambia, DR Congo and Zimbabwe. Malawi, Tanzania and Mozambique are very worried for the disease spread to their countries whereby national and SADC biosecurity strategies are very necessary and needed. 

The way forward

  • Incorporate the EUS active Surveillance programme with the Biological survey programmes of the river systems to save in expenses.
  • Finalise the drafted EUS active Surveillance programme, in consultation with Renier Burger and the EUS coordinator, and submit to the FAO project co-ordinator before the end of October 2015.
  • Identify an EUS sampling team that consist of an EUS coordinator and EUS samplers
  • Develop standard operating procedures, protocols and checklists for the EUS surveillance programme (EUS coordinator)
  • Procure equipment and consumables (EUS coordinator)
  • Conduct (Heidi Skrypzeck and Mikael Ekandjo) an EUS training Workshop and a mini training survey for the EUS sampling team
  • Implement the EUS active Surveillance programme (collection of data, samples and information) as soon as possible since the FAO project expects Namibia to generate data within 12 months that will be used in the October 2016 workshop.
  • The October 2016 workshop aims to give training in calculating the prevalence of EUS in each country sampled and in risk analysis. This project will continue until in 2017. This information will assist in the development of Biosecurity strategy for the country.
  • It is to the benefit of our Ministry to continue its co-operation of this FAO project GCP/SFS/001/MUL, since this project will enable the Ministry to do disease surveillance for EUS, regular disease reporting to the OIE and determine the country’s current EUS status of river systems and dams.

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