Texas A&M AgriLife and the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences announced that they are offering the first-ever field training for North American private-sector veterinarians and state and federal animal health officials on foot and mouth disease (FMD).
The training will include hands-on experience in the diagnosis and investigation of a real outbreak in an FMD-endemic country, the announcement said. The event is the result of AgriLife’s collaboration with the European Commission for the Control of Foot & Mouth Disease (EuFMD).
Registration closes Jan. 2, and the course will be held Feb. 9-14 in Uganda. Training will cover FMD pathogenesis, clinical diagnosis, laboratory testing, epidemiology, outbreak investigation and biosecurity. It will also equip participants to pass on the training they receive to others back home after the course, AgriLife said.
AgriLife is working with the global community to bring solutions to the U.S. through new research, diagnostic tools and trainings. FMD is a severe, extremely contagious viral disease of cloven-hoofed animals such as cattle, swine, sheep, goats and deer.
While the U.S., Canada and Mexico have not experienced an occurrence of FMD since 1929, 1952 and 1954, respectively, on a global scale, the disease is endemic in many countries in Asia, the Middle East and large parts of Africa, AgriLife explained. It also continues to be seen in some parts of Europe, along with sporadic outbreaks in South America.
“The U.S. livestock industries and animal health officials have been working on U.S. foot and mouth disease preparedness plans for many years,” said Dr. Elizabeth Parker with Texas AgriLife Research. “The need for this training is at an all-time high for U.S. veterinarians working with livestock. The recent rapid spread of African swine fever across Asia reminds us of the need to be vigilant and increase our preparedness for foreign animal diseases such as African swine fever and foot and mouth disease. If the U.S. had an outbreak of foot and mouth disease, early detection is key, and our private-sector veterinarians will most likely be the boots on the ground to help regulatory animal health officials implement the daily response.”
Colin Woodall, chief executive officer for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn., said, “The return of foot and mouth disease to the U.S. is one of the biggest threats to our industry. It is important that courses like this are used to help educate, train and prepare large animal vets and industry experts to help us respond quickly and decisively. Preparation and prevention are key, and this course will help with both.”
AgriLife said the training course will enable participants to learn: how to safely examine livestock without spreading the disease among farms; how to age lesions and take FMD diagnostic samples; what U.S. regulations will require, and how to help clients develop a biosecurity plan specific to their operations to minimize the odds of an outbreak on their farm or ranch.
“Private veterinarians play a vital role in protecting the U.S. dairy herd from foot and mouth disease,” said Dr. Jamie Jonker, vice president for sustainability and scientific affairs for the National Milk Producers Federation. “Hands-on training opportunities to observe foot and mouth disease are an excellent opportunity for dairy veterinarians to hone their skills in protecting the U.S. dairy herd from the disease.”
FMD is not a food safety or public health threat, but it does pose a serious economic risk to the U.S. agriculture and food industry due to large-scale production losses and severe restrictions on international trade. Control and eradication costs could also be significant. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, research suggests that an FMD outbreak in the U.S. could result in losses of $15 billion to $100 billion, depending on the duration of the outbreak, the extent of trade restrictions and consumer reactions.
“We are proud to offer this course, the first of its kind for North America, to give our veterinarians the resources and training to properly and safely manage a potentially catastrophic disease among our nation’s livestock,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King dean of veterinary medicine at Texas A&M.
EuFMD has been offering this training to other countries for more than 10 years, but this is the first opportunity designed specifically for North America. A field veterinarian from USDA's Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) will also take part during each training to discuss the specifics of a U.S. response.
“This course is a great opportunity for private practitioners, where they will get a foreign animal disease diagnostician-like experience and see foot and mouth disease in person,” said Dr. Burke Healy, U.S. chief veterinarian and Veterinary Services deputy administrator for APHIS. “While we’ve been able to send a few veterinarians to a European course in the past, having a course hosted by a U.S. institution will mean that many more U.S. veterinarians will be able to participate. Private practitioners play an important role in helping us detect foreign animal diseases like foot and mouth disease or African swine fever, should they ever occur in the United States, giving us a better chance to catch a disease before it is widespread.”
More information and registration for the course can be found at https://vetmed.tamu.edu/ce/continuing-education-eu-fmd-training/.
More information on FMD can be found at https://www.foot-and-mouth diseaseinfo.org/.