USAHA committee addresses animal emergency management issues

Foot and mouth disease, avian influenza and emergency hazard management and response plans were among topics discussed during recent meeting of U.S. Animal Health Assn.’s Committee on Animal Emergency Management.

Foot and mouth disease (FMD), avian influenza and emergency hazard management and response plans were among the topics discussed during the Oct. 14 meeting of the U.S. Animal Health Assn.’s (USAHA) Committee on Animal Emergency Management.

Some 19 speakers participated in the discussion. The committee meeting, part of USAHA’s 121st annual meeting in San Diego, Cal., attracted about 150 participants from across the nation.

Starting off the five-hour session was Dr. Jon Zack, director of the National Preparedness & Incident Coordination Center (NPIC) within the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), who, along with Dr. Fred Bourgeosis and Rodney White, also of APHIS, gave updates on Veterinary Service and National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) activities.

Among the topics addressed by Zack was that of screwworm flies. He noted how quickly the recent outbreak in the Florida Keys was brought under control thanks to a well-coordinated, multi-agency effort. The first detection of an infection occurred in September, and by the end of March, the all-clear was given. The nearly 150 cases were detected in Key deer, along with a couple of pet dogs and pigs. No livestock were affected, Zack said.

The outbreak ended up costing APHIS some $3 million. In addition, the state of Florida and other agencies incurred their own associated costs.

Close to 200 million sterile flies were released in order to bring the Florida screwworm fly situation under control. Zack said the flies were brought in from Panama, where a permanent barrier is maintained to hinder the flies from movement north out of South America.

Zack also talked about FMD in noting that APHIS is working on setting up an FMD exercise on resource management and unified incident command for May 2018. To date, he said, five states are committed to the exercise, with more hopefully signing on.

White talked about what APHIS is doing in regard to foam depopulation training related to avian influenza. He said new spray nozzles have been developed that are more effective, especially in barn corners, and a new global positioning system (GPS) tracking service for trucks has been initiated.

APHIS’s Dr. Amy Delgado talked about the FMD modeling work that is under way with the goal of determining how FMD potentially spreads and can, therefore, be best controlled. She said the model takes into account bison, dairy and beef cattle, goats, sheep and swine as well as livestock movements and other indirect contacts coming onto the farm, such as from veterinarians, hoof trimmers and others.

Delgado said 1.8 million farms have been incorporated into the model, along with more than 900 livestock markets. She noted that no personal information on these operations has been included but that states have the option if they feel it is needed.

The real question, according to Delgado, is what the optimal strategies are for responding to an FMD outbreak based on the characteristics of an outbreak and the operations affected. The model, she said, should help with that process.

Also of issue, Delgado said, are the number of vaccine doses available and the rate of vaccination to best manage the gap of 14 weeks it takes to ramp up vaccine development. Swine, in particular, take two doses of vaccine, which means that when the first dose is given, there needs to be assurance that a second dose will be available when needed. This takes appropriate planning and timing, Delgado said.

A concern expressed to Delgado is how secure food supplies seem to be in species silos and that state veterinarians don’t always know whom to listen to in an outbreak situation.

On the topic of secure food supply plans, the importance of getting dairy cattle and beef cattle producers to recognize sound biosecurity practices was noted. The thinking that biosecurity is only a “pig thing” is unacceptable. Dr. Danelle Bickett-Weddle, associate director of the Center for Food Security & Public Health at Iowa State University, said three new resources would be forthcoming shortly to help increase that awareness: securepork.org, securebeef.org and securemilk.org.

Lori Miller, senior staff officer/environmental engineer with APHIS, gave an update on the agency’s carcass management research. She made reference to the new "Livestock Mortality Composting Protocol" put out by APHIS, which offers detailed procedures for composting diseased cattle, swine, sheep, goat and cervid mortalities. The protocol, released by APHIS in August, is a companion document to the poultry protocol on the APHIS website, she said.

Miller detailed several technological developments underway at APHIS focused on carcass management and decontamination. One is a mobile incineration process. Another is a non-freezing wash tunnel and an autonomous robot for cleaning livestock trailers. The robot climbs into the carrier and cleans and disinfects. It is presently under long-term testing that is scheduled to end in March 2018, at which time APHIS hopes to move it into commercialization.

A waste-to-energy trial conducted with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management holds much promise for other states, Miller said. The procedure involved incinerating poultry carcasses at an energy-from-waste plant in Indiana. Miller said APHIS is considering developing protocols for such ventures, much like what is being done in the rendering industry.

Jeff Turner of Texas, Dr. Rod Hall of Oklahoma, Dr. Justin Smith of Kansas and Dr. Nick Striegel of Colorado talked about lessons learned from wildfires and the importance of having emergency plans in place before disaster strikes.

Smith said proactive communication ahead of time can make all the difference in how quickly and effective a response can be. Such discussions should involve area livestock industry leadership, emergency manager, departments of natural resources, health and environment officials and even local utilities if burial plans might be involved. Communication also helps to cut down on rumors and keeps things from spiraling out of control, he said.

Smith noted that in the March 2017 wildfires in Kansas, one of the issues they were not prepared for was drones impeding aerial water drops. New restrictions have since been put in place, he said. It is something that people in other states may want to consider, he added.

Hall reference a study of producers in Texas who were asked if a natural disaster or a disease outbreak was of most concern. A disease outbreak was, hands down, the thing that keeps most producers up at night. He said the reasoning is most likely because there can be so many unknowns that result when disease hits, particularly when solid emergency plans are not in place.

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