USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has issued a final rule, effective August 27, that will amend the regulations that govern the importation of animals and animal products by revising the list of factors APHIS considers when evaluating the animal health status of a foreign region.

This rule also establishes new factors for considering a region to be historically free of a specific disease. Current APHIS regulations set forth the process by which a foreign government may request recognition of the animal health status of a region. Such requests must be accompanied by 11 specific types of information, APHIS said.  However, APHIS said  its evaluation process is often hindered because the initial information is incomplete, requiring the agency to contact the requesting government for additional information. APHIS is, therefore, clarifying what information is necessary for it to initiate an evaluation of risk by consolidating the 11 factors into eight and making available more detailed guidance as to the specific types of information encompassed by each factor.

 The World Organization for Animal Health’s (OIE) Terrestrial Animal Health Code recommends that a region may be recognized as historically free of a disease if it has never occurred there or has not occurred for at least the past 25 years if the following conditions have been met for at least the past 10 years:

  • The disease has been a notifiable disease;
  • an early detection system has been in place for all relevant species;
  • measures to prevent disease or infection introduction have been in place and no vaccination against the disease has been carried out unless otherwise provided in the code; and
  • there has been no evidence of infection in wildlife in the region.

APHIS concurs with these recommended criteria and is, therefore, adding a new paragraph to its regulations that lists the factors it will consider in evaluating whether to recognize a region as historically free. Consistent with OIE guidelines, evaluations by APHIS for historically free status will focus on verifying an effective early detection system for the disease under consideration, disease reporting requirements, and measures in place to prevent introduction.

The Federal Register notice is available here.