Most states have plans in place should a foreign animal disease find its way onto U.S. soil.
But, says Jeff Kaisand, there is no simulating the real thing.
“There are different issues or people react differently,” says Kaisand, who serves as Iowa’s state veterinarian. “Some of the plans we write down may get thrown out the window the very first day of an outbreak.”
With African swine fever (ASF) in China and parts of Eastern Europe, the U.S. pork industry has braced itself as efforts continue to keep the deadly disease out of the domestic herd.
Concerns led the National Pork Producers Council to make the rare decision to cancel the World Pork Expo, held each June in Des Moines.
The front line of defense consists of two elements — local veterinarians and a premises identification program that allows state and federal agencies to trace the history of an animal, leading to a more rapid containment that could allow the continued flow of non-infected livestock operations.
Kaisand says most states have some sort of premises ID program in place. In Iowa, for example, nearly 33,000 livestock operations have a premises identification number.
He says it is difficult to know exactly how many farms have livestock, but says he is pleased with the number of voluntary registrations in Iowa.
“The swine industry is probably ahead of everyone else,” Kaisand says, adding most packers require a premises ID number. “The other species are coming along pretty well in recent years.”
Producers who suspect something should immediately contact state or federal officials, along with their local veterinarian. Kaisand says Iowa is developing a program that essentially creates of pool of veterinarians who would be available to assist with a foreign animal disease (FAD) outbreak.
While the emphasis is on ASF at the moment, he says other FADs such as foot and mouth disease and classical swine fever also pose a threat to the nation’s livestock industry.
The pork industry has been encouraging producers to register their premises, says Patrick Webb, a veterinarian and director of swine health programs for the National Pork Board.
“We look at this as a 911 system for livestock,” he says. “It’s a critical piece that links all information for states and their animal health departments.”
Webb says the process for investigating any disease that could be an FAD involves contact with the state veterinarian’s office. The area veterinarian in charge, who Webb calls the state veterinarian’s counterpart with the USDA, will also be contacted.
Iowa has four district veterinarians, and others work for the USDA. The state will assign an investigator, Webb says, with the hope of ruling out an FAD as soon as possible.
“That’s where traceability is going to be important,” he says.
Webb says many potential cases have been reported in recent years because symptoms of Seneca Valley virus look similar to foot and mouth disease.
He says if testing is positive, it is up to the state veterinarian’s office to get information back to the producer. All information is kept confidential. Webb says the plan is to isolate the infected pigs and track their history, helping to minimize exposure to other herds.
“We have the ability to link the information to the farm because we can tie premises ID to production and movement records,” he says.
“There is a nationwide level of preparedness, and I think the process we have in place will work well.”