Fr: Rosemary Mucklow
NMA Executive Director
Re: Foot & Mouth Disease March 31, 2001
I attended a meeting called by Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman yesterday at the APHIS offices in Riverdale, MD for a briefing and update for industry organizations on the U. S. efforts and strategy to prevent the entry of Foot & Mouth Disease (FMD) into the United States. The meeting was chaired by Dr. Richard Breitmeyer, State Veterinarian of California, on a 30-day loan to USDA to head up the Department’s response team. He was joined by all senior officials of APHIS including Administrator Dr. Craig Reed, Dr. Alfonso Torres, Dr. C. Schwalbe, Dr. J. Annelli and Dr. M. Teachman. Several state officials stayed over from a similar meeting the day before with them. The Secretary’s Chief of Staff Dale Moore attended, and the Secretary herself participated for a short while by conference telephone.
Industry representatives included the American Veterinary Medical Association, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Milk Producers Federation, National Meat Association, National Pork Producers Council, American Meat Institute and others.
Dr. Torres explained that FMD is a highly contagious viral disease that affects livestock with two toes. It is one of the family of vesicular diseases (vesicle = globular swelling containing air or fluid). There are 7 FMD serotypes, and distinct separate vaccines are necessary for each serotype. Heat at 70 C. kills the virus, pH lower than 6.0 inactivates it. It can be transmitted in the air, by direct contacts, in meat products and by fomites (vehicles, people, etc.) Garbage feeding of swine is a common cause. Incubation is 5 days; clinical duration is 3 – 4 weeks. Livestock never regain their position after infection. Carrier state in cattle may last from 6 to 24 months. Virus can still circulate after vaccination. Neither horses nor humans are susceptible. Surviving infected livestock will be immune for a year. Vaccination is only good for 6 months.
Most outbreaks are caused by legal or illegal importation of animals and their products. It is a reportable disease in the U.S. States have authority to quarantine livestock movement and to order disinfection of vehicles and personnel, slaughter of infected and contact livestock, destruction of infected carcasses and to try to “ring” an outbreak. The U. S., Canada and Mexico, all free from FMD, have a pool of vaccines available, held at Plum Island under bio-security. They have sufficient supply for 1 m. doses for 80 weeks (2 million doses for 40 weeks). Plum Island is one of only three vaccine banks in the world, one in Germany and one in the U.K. The industry would be consulted before a a vaccination program was initiated, and tagging of vaccinated livestock would be mandated for data and analysis of effectiveness.
APHIS has a continuum of risk management for an outcome of prevention. With 126 ports of entry into the U.s. (rail, air, marine, and highways), the program is predicated on risk. The U.S. is currently doubling its canine brigade that is capable of sniffing out food, and it has both civil and criminal penalties for smuggling violations. In an extraordinary emergency, the Secretary can control intra-state activities. In the event of an outbreak, an “infected zone” is determined, and it is ringed by a “surveillance or movement zone” which is managed.
Secretary Veneman reconfirmed to everyone that prevention is a partnership and thanked everyone for their interest and concern in attending the meeting. She reiterated the measures already taken by USDA to suspend imports of livestock and meat products and said that representations by the EU for relaxation are still being reviewed. USDA is continually reassessing the situation, and working with other agencies of the federal government (Department of Transportation, Customs Service and others) to be on high alert and fully prepared. She noted that there is confusion by the public between the two issues of BSE and FMD. The economic implications are huge to the agricultural economy and the partnership of government, academia, and industry is very important.
In the discussion, there were several issues raised, including the need to euthenize livestock humanely and to have available information to share widely with the agricultural community. The executive summary (14 pages) of A National Emergency Response to a Highly Contagious Animal Disease updated 3/31/01 was distributed. NMA will make it available on its web site early next week, or by other means if it becomes absolutely necessary. The Secretary’s Chief of Staff told the group that President George Bush is vitally interested and concerned and is briefed by noontime daily on the status. The Cabinet recognizes the issue as a “top of the mind” importance. Policy for indemnification are under consideration. Finally, a tripartite exercises were conducted in 2000 and concluded with a functional exercise in November. A one-page summary report is available from NMA.