Animal disease surveillance

The UK veterinary surveillance network is vital to ensuring that threats to public health, trade, and wider society from animal diseases are identified and managed. 

There are two types of veterinary surveillance: statutory surveillance, which deals with the management of notifiable diseases, such as foot and mouth disease and rabies, and scanning surveillance, which enables the early detection of new and re-emerging animal related threats, e.g. Schmallenberg virus.

In December 2014 the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) announced a new structure for disease scanning surveillance in England and Wales. The plans have resulted in six of the 14 veterinary surveillance centres being closed around England and Wales, and this has caused ongoing concerns about the robustness of the UK’s disease surveillance network.

Engaging with the surveillance network

BVA's Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey shows that, where there have been changes to post-mortem facilities since 2014, a third of vets affected thought their access to facilities had deteriorated and, where there have been laboratory closures, three-quarters of vets had seen carcase submission rates decline.

Watch our Veterinary View video about the importance of having a robust surveillance network. 

Reporting notifiable diseases

Notifiable diseases in animals must be reported to government authorities. These are:

Collecting surveillance data from farm animals

In England and Wales farm animal carcases can be sent to an APHA Veterinary Investigation Centre or one of APHA's partner sites for post-mortem examination. A free carcase collection service is available in some areas (see APHA's postcode search tool).

In addition to post-mortem examinations, APHA also undertakes diagnostic laboratory testing and has produced guidance for vets on sample and test selection and packing.

In Scotland, post-mortems and diagnostic testing are conducted by eight disease surveillance centres.

In Northern Ireland, animal disease diagnostic services are provided by the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) laboratories in Stormont and Omagh

Collecting surveillance data from companion animals

For companion animals, surveillance data can be collected from veterinary practice management systems. The two initiatives in the UK which collect this data are:

    Our activity on animal disease surveillance

    Resources on animal disease surveillance