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Agricultural News

FMD - Not If, But When

Tue, 16 Apr 2013 18:22:53 CDT

FMD - Not If, But When
Even though many countries have been free of FMD for many years, global travel and trade have the potential to spread a highly-contagious outbreak far and wide, devastating large segments of the livestock industry. Many experts believe that a serious outbreak is not a matter of “if,” but “when.”

At a special Foot-and-Mouth Disease Symposium at the National Institute for Animal Agriculture’s Annual Conference, Radio Oklahoma Network's Ron Hays spoke with Dr. Gay Miller from the University of Illinois. She is a world renowned epidemiologist who has studied the challenges of controlling FMD while maintaining continuity in the livestock business. (You can listen to their full conversation by clicking on the LISTEN BAR at the bottom of this story.)

Miller spoke at the conference and said the only way to really get a handle on the disease that could devastate international trade is to be prepared.

“We need to prepare for it as if it is going to occur in the near future, plain and simple,” she said.

In years past, the only strategy for dealing with an FMD outbreak was massive herd depopulation. Miller said that is one option, but not, perhaps, the most effective.

“The old-style approach was very much stamping out, was the only consideration, but we have capability developed, now associated with vaccinations so that we can, at the very minimum, marry a stamping-out approach with a vaccination approach in a way that will be effective in handling an outbreak-much more economical and with much less wastage of animal protein.”

For vaccination programs to work, especially in densely populated areas like the Oklahoma National Stockyards with thousands of head being transported through and dispersed across the country and across the globe, Miller said the task to develop and implement an effective strategy is daunting.

“It does require a tremendous commitment on the part of industry to think about, to strategize, to develop plans associated with how they would help USDA implement vaccinations. USDA will do a good job at getting vaccine into the appropriate release points, if you will, in warehouses. But it is going to require structures put in place by industry as to how to get that vaccine appropriately distributed to the farms and then administered effectively to the animals.”

She said it is extremely important for industry to step up and work with the USDA to develop and implement appropriate plans.

Mass vaccination programs have been implemented before, as in Uruguay, but it took time of the OIE to catch up with what had been done. Miller said the OIE now makes guidance changes regularly based on the latest scientific studies and how various countries have responded.

“What happened with Uruguay was more than a decade ago and, at this point, that was an early application of a mass vaccination strategy moving away from a stamping out. And time has passed and it has occurred in other countries. Other countries have used this strategy and OIE guidance has changed accordingly. And we can anticipate that OIE guidance would change based on what my happen in the U.S. and how we would choose to handle an outbreak.”

How would we handle an outbreak in the U.S. in beef cattle?

“I anticipate that once we recognize that we had it, certainly we are announcing to the world our circumstance and we are transparent in that basic information. That has been a criticism, actually, of lack of transparency occurring in other countries. We would, most likely, implement stop-movement orders. There would be a stand-still of animal agriculture for some period of time. The actual period will depend on how the outbreak unfolds.

“That alone, research has shown, is not going to control the outbreak. Neither is mass depopulation with a very few exceptions where you happen to catch it, be so fortunate to catch it very early and only with certain serotypes which are less infectious. In other circumstances, we have to recognize quickly that we need to implement vaccinations and we need to implement that as rapidly as we can because the only way for vaccine to be effective is to get it rapidly into the animals. Speed stops spread with regard to vaccine applications.”

Miller said the USDA is working with the cattle industry to jointly develop plans to combat such an outbreak in the United States. She said efforts would be even more effective with industry leadership and now is the time to have these discussions before an outbreak in which rules and regulations might be adopted on the fly and which might not be as effective.



Dr. Gay Miller talks with Ron Hays about developing effective strategies to deal with FMD in a global marketplace.
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