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Response plans to possible Foot & Mouth Disease outbreak in U.S.

Photo Eteinne Girardet, Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship
The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service recently practiced distributing a placebo Foot and Mouth Disease vaccine to better prepare in the event of an FMD outbreak.

DES MOINES, IA – Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig announced recently that the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship partnered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to test state and federal animal health officials’ plans to respond to a Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) outbreak if it were to occur in the U.S.

The disease is estimated to circulate in 77% of the global livestock population, in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, as well as in a limited area of South America. Countries that are currently free of FMD without vaccination remain under constant threat of an outbreak. FMD has not been detected in the U.S. since 1929.

“This is one of several foreign animal disease planning and response exercises that the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and USDA APHIS have conducted over the past several years,” said Secretary Naig.  This exercise involved state, federal and international players. It was a great way to test our current disease response and vaccine distribution strategies so we are better equipped to respond if a real outbreak occurs,” continued Secretary Naig, who added, “I want to thank Gov. Reynolds and the Iowa Legislature for continuing to provide funding to support these types of training exercises.”

During this training exercise, state and federal animal health officials discussed their FMD vaccine distribution strategy, deliberated important decisions and practiced actions that would need to be taken at the beginning of a real foreign animal disease outbreak.

The training exercise included detecting a hypothetical case in a susceptible animal, identifying the strain of the FMD virus, activating the North American Foot and Mouth Disease Vaccine Bank (NAFMDVB), shipping the placebo vaccine from a European manufacturer to the U.S., and distributing the placebo vaccine to participating livestock producers and veterinary clinics in multiple states.

It was essential to demonstrate that the placebo vaccine could be held within a specific temperature range during shipping and that chain of control could be maintained during the entire distribution process.

Last year, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship worked with USDA APHIS to draft a FMD vaccination plan. In December 2020, the Department co-hosted a foreign animal disease planning and preparation workshop with USDA APHIS, with support provided by the Iowa State University Center for Food Security and Public Health. The two-day tabletop exercise brought state and federal animal health officials, Iowa livestock producers and industry representatives together to test the state’s FMD vaccination plans.

Then in June, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship hosted a tabletop exercise with USDA APHIS and industry stakeholders to discuss how to prevent and prepare for a potential foreign animal disease outbreak at a livestock show or exhibition.

The FMD virus affects cows, pigs, sheep, goats, deer and other animals with divided hooves. The virus can cause a fever, blisters and lameness in livestock, resulting in decreased protein and milk production.

If a positive case of FMD was confirmed in the U.S., it could disrupt the food supply chain, international trade and the economy.

There are vaccines available to protect livestock from FMD but they must be matched to the specific type and subtype of the virus to be effective. To date, there are more than seven known types and 60 subtypes of the FMD virus.

To learn more about FMD, visit aphis.usda.gov/.


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