Here's a textbook definition: “Hoof and mouth disease, also known as foot and mouth disease, is a viral disease that affects cattle and pigs.
The disease is highly contagious and can be fatal to the animals that contract it.
Humans are rarely infected, but other animals like goats, sheep, bison and deer can catch the disease. There is no known treatment for animals that contract the disease.”
A veterinarian from the state office appealed to a gathering of emergency response team members at the Northwest Career Tech School of an urgent need to develop County Animal Response Teams to be ready for emergencies involving both large and small animals.
Dr. Debbie Cunningham said the State of Oklahoma employs only five veterinarians and nine field people to cover the entire state. “That's it! That's our staff,” she said.
She first reminded the audience of serious tornadoes a couple of years ago, when Oklahoma did not have sufficient emergency teams in place to help with emergency livestock sheltering.
Cunningham said, “The federal PETS act came about because of Hurricane Katrina. Many people lost their lives in New Orleans because they wouldn't evacuate the danger zone because they didn't want to abandon their pets.
“When they did arrive at shelters, they had their pets with them. In the recent wildfire crisis in Oklahoma, we were activated because many people showed up at people shelters with their pets. Fortunately, we found an air conditioned hall-way at the Sand Springs animal shelter where we could safely house small dogs. You just can't put them out in a tent with a box fan in 105 degree heat.”
The veterinarian spent much more time talking about her concern regarding a need to be ready to respond to disease outbreaks among larger animals.
The Plum Island Foreign Animal Disease center is being replaced in 2017 by a new facility in Manhattan, Kansas. Plum Island is two miles off the New York coast, which she believes is a good place to investigate deadly animal diseases from foreign countries.
Cunningham thinks it is crazy to place the research center next door to a veterinarian school, with only a concrete parking lot separating where outside cattle are present. She said previous guidelines called for a two mile separation. So, she said, “Agri-terrorism is really what I'm here to speak to you guys about.”
She posed the question, “How much money do you think it would cost for me to devastate our nation?” A little later she explained her answer of $2500.
“A theoretical attack could work in this manner,” she illustrated. “Purchase a $2300 airline ticket, add a little extra for food and a hotel, then return home 'from a mission trip' with a handkerchief contaminated with the saliva or mucus from an animal with foot and mouth disease.”
She said, “If I stick that handkerchief in a zip lock bag, and explain to baggage inspectors that I had developed a bad cold on the trip and put my yucky handkerchief in a Ziplock bag, I bet I could get it through customs.”
Then she said, “Foot and mouth disease is sooooo contagious. All I would have to do is drop a few pieces of my handkerchief in a cattle pen or a feed lot. Those of you in this room know these are naturally curious animals and they will check it out.”
Cunningham then displayed a slide of how quickly animals are shipped to all sectors of the nation. She said, “Before you know it, our large animal food supply would simply dry up.
And all the people who are in a supporting role, such as truckers, feedlot operators, convenience stores (fuel sales), and meat cutters in grocery stores, would all be out of jobs. What about the restaurants whose menus depend on meat? The economic devastation would be enormous.”
So, she concluded, “I think county animal response teams are going to be crucial. If any of the 17 diseases get out of the facility up in Kansas, we're going to need these vaccination teams.”
Source: Argentine Beef Packers S.A.
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