AVS leverages new technology to enhance biosurveillance in Singapore
26 Nov 2021
- New Animal Quarantine Centre deploys smart technology to better safeguard animal health and welfare
- Centre and quarantine process are an integral part of AVS’ biosurveillance strategy and will strengthen resilience of animal health system
As part of efforts to strengthen biosurveillance and resilience of Singapore’s animal health system, the Animal & Veterinary Service (AVS), a cluster of the National Parks Board (NParks), is leveraging technology to enhance the management of animal diseases that may pose threats to human and animal health. This includes the deployment of diagnostic digital tools and the setting up of an animal health-related database.
AVS announced this at the opening of the new Animal Quarantine Centre (AQC) at Jalan Lekar, which plays an integral role in the biosurveillance of diseases from the import of pet dogs and cats. The new centre deploys technology tools to help monitor the health condition of animals in quarantine and improve visitor flow and experience. The Minister of State for National Development, Mr Tan Kiat How, opened and visited the centre earlier today.
An effective biosurveillance system, one of the strategies under our City in Nature vision, is critical in the management of emerging threats of animal and zoonotic diseases.
AVS’ biosurveillance strategy
To safeguard Singapore’s animal health status, AVS has in place a comprehensive biosurveillance system that comprises pre-border, border and post-border checks and controls, as follows: (i) pre-border - allowing import of animals only when they meet our import health requirements. This is done through our permit system; (ii) border - inspection of animals at border checkpoints to ensure the health of the animals and verification of import documents; and, (iii) post-border - quarantine of animals to monitor for any illnesses. Undergirding this is the Centre for Animal & Veterinary Sciences (CAVS), which houses animal health laboratories equipped with advanced diagnostic capabilities to identify animal and zoonotic diseases and sequence the genome of the disease agents. Staffed by a multi-disciplinary team including veterinarians, animal health inspectors and laboratory scientists, this biosurveillance system has helped maintain Singapore’s rabies-free status for nearly 70 years since 1953, and continues to ensure that Singapore is free from other major transboundary animal diseases that have affected different parts of the world such as African Swine Fever, Foot-and-Mouth Disease and African Horse Sickness.
Enhancements in our biosurveillance strategy
a. Border inspections
AVS has in place stringent animal import regulations and operations as part of its biosurveillance strategy. To further strengthen these measures and our ability to prevent infectious diseases from entering Singapore, AVS is employing the use of in-ship vessel CCTVs with live transmission and drones fitted with thermal cameras to inspect imported pigs before they are cleared for entry into Singapore. This is part of first level animal health checks.
b. Building an Animal Health Information System
The animal health information system will integrate data across various streams such as animal health status, licensing, inspection and feedback data collected from the import and export of animals, as well as from animal-related establishments including AVS’ laboratories, pet shops, commercial pet breeders and boarders, veterinary clinics, and other equine and wildlife premises. These data will be incorporated into NParks’ overall Geographic Information System platform, MAVEN II. Having an integrated information system will allow for data analytics and enable AVS to better anticipate and manage biosecurity risks.
In line with this, the new Animal Quarantine Centre will expand its current quarantine management system for returning and imported pets into a central repository to manage the operations of all quarantine facilities across Singapore including those designated for imported wildlife, horses and laboratory animals.
These digital enhancements are in addition to current efforts to upgrade the traceability of pet dogs through smart technology. This will enable AVS to react expeditiously in the event of a disease outbreak.
AVS targets to complete these digital transformation initiatives progressively by 2024.
c. Quarantine process
The Animal Quarantine Centre is Singapore’s quarantine facility for newly arrived dogs and cats, where they are held for a specific period of time to monitor for any signs of illnesses. The new Centre will be employing rapid, point-of-care tests to check for infectious diseases in sick animals, such as canine parvovirus. This is in addition to the CAVS’ support in conducting further confirmation testing of diseases such as rabies.
Relocated from the Sembawang Animal Quarantine Station, the new purpose-built Centre will leverage technologies to better safeguard animal health and welfare, and enhance the overall experience for quarantined animals and their owners.
This includes employing technology that will detect potential pathogens in the kennel and cattery environment. AQC is looking to conduct regular environmental air sampling to quickly identify the presence of respiratory diseases which spread quickly through the air, such as canine and feline influenza. In addition, technology is being employed to remotely ensure safe distancing between dogs during walks to reduce risk of quarantined animals coming into contact, as well as monitor the conditions of the animals in their kennels or catteries. These technologies will help safeguard the animals’ health and welfare while they are at AQC.
Home quarantine technology
AVS will employ the use of smart collar tags for animals eligible for home quarantine, making Singapore one of the first countries to do so. Some animals, such as those with pre-existing medical conditions that require around-the-clock care by their owners, can serve their post-arrival quarantine at home. The use of smart collar tags will enhance our capabilities in ensuring compliance to home quarantine rules, thus allowing for more animals with special medical needs to be eligible for home quarantine without comprising our biosurveillance. The use of the tags will be extended progressively to cover the quarantine of imported animals from lower disease risk countries.
Design of Centre
The new centre is purposefully designed to allow for maximum airflow between the buildings and within the individual units, for the comfort of the animals. To cool and beautify the building and its immediate environment, more than 2300 trees, shrubs and climbers have been planted around the compound, and green roofs and vertical greenery have been incorporated for every block.