Veterinarians and public safety responders from Utah and Idaho will be conducting a large-scale foreign animal disease exercise July 31 - August 2 in Cache Valley to quickly identify and contain a foreign animal disease.
Dr. Bruce King, Utah's State Veterinarian talks to Kerry Bringhurst about the importance of containing foreign animal diseases and why this exercise will involve so many agencies and individuals.
What is the Threat of Foreign Animal Diseases?
"There are diseases that we do not have in the United States and we do not want to have them come and if they do we want to identify them early on and contain them...Particularly foot and mouth disease. It's extremely contagious. It spreads very quickly. If you don't recognize it early on, in just a matter of a few days it could be spread not only throughout Cache Valley but throughout several states."
What Will Happen During the Exercise?
"What we're going to simulate is that there is an animal in Richmond that actually contracted the disease while in a special cell around several other animals. We'll contain that animal there at that facility but prior to knowing that animal had the disease several animals that had been in contact left the facility and went to several different farms and ranches within Cache Valley."
Citizens in Cache Valley could see semi-trucks pulled over or veterinarians in biohazard suits.
"We'll be working with local law enforcement as well as state law enforcement. We'll be working with the local brand inspectors. They'll actually be pulling over vehicles...that have animals in them and doing some checking and making sure all the import requirements are being met."
What is the Public Concern?
"Foot and mouth disease is not a zoonotic disease. You or I can't get it, but it has severe economic complications. If we contracted foot and mouth disease in this country we would not be able to export any meat to other countries for a lot of time."
This is Just a Simulation
"We have not had foot and mouth disease in the United States since the 1930s. So when I say there's a sick animal in Richmond, that's all simulated. The importance is that when it comes we need to recognize it early and contain the animals that are exposed to the disease. The problem with that disease is that we have herds of animals in the United States that have never been exposed to that disease before. Unless we're able to contain it and quickly stamp it out, it will not only go across the whole country but continually decimate the economy."
"Back in '01 I was over in England during the foot and mouth disease outbreak over there. They prevented the movement of animals. You couldn't get animals to sale, to slaughter, to where they could be processed and be made available as human food. It was interesting to watch and learn from."
What are the Long-term Effects of Foreign Animal Diseases?
"From my experience in England, they euthanized 2 million animals in the process of stomping out that disease. The reason for that was they didn't recognize the disease until it had been in country for about 3 weeks....It spread throughout England and into Ireland and Scotland. You decimate not only numbers of animals but also genetics. There were herds of animals that were killed that are no longer available. It closed down all of the tourism in England. It becomes a lot more than agriculture involved...Instances of Suicide extremely increased. I was on one farm where I diagnosed the disease and these people had been dairying not just for a few years but for hundreds of years. In the morning, they milked their cows and that night they were all dead. The emotional impact of this, it's hard for me to explain."
Utah and Idaho State Veterinarians, responders from Utah and Idaho departments of Public Safety, Highway Patrol, and Emergency Management, Agriculture Homeland Security, the Utah Dairymen's Association, private veterinarians, and farmers and ranchers in Cache Valley will all be involve din the 3 day exercise. The intent is to strengthen the teamwork between these agencies to prevent the spread of animal diseases.