Pig vets push for vaccine stockpile
Foot-and-mouth worry spurs call
A group of swine veterinarians warned lawmakers this week on Capitol Hill of the dangers of foot-and-mouth disease, urging them to establish an offshore vaccine bank to quickly eliminate the disease and prevent future outbreaks from destroying livestock and damaging the national economy.
At the rate global livestock exports are growing, advocacy groups are concerned that if more safeguards aren’t in place, a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak could cripple the entire agriculture sector and have long-lasting ramifications on the viability of U.S. livestock production.
“If the United States had an FMD outbreak and didn’t have the ability to quickly control then eradicate the disease through vaccination, the cost to the U.S. beef, pork, corn and soybean industries, alone, would be $200 billion over a 10-year period,” Dave Warner, spokesman for the National Pork Producers Council, said in a statement. “That would devastate those agricultural sectors and have a negative ripple effect throughout the economy.”
Twenty-three veterinarians from across the country are in Washington, D.C., as
representatives of the Swine Veterinarian Public Policy Advocacy Program. The National Pork Producers Council and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association have made creating a foot-and-mouth disease bank its top priority for the 2018 farm bill.
The highly contagious disease is found in animals with divided hooves, such as cows, pigs, sheep, goats and deer. Symptoms include fever and blisters in and around the animals’ mouths, mammary glands and hooves. Most infected animals won’t die but will be weakened and unable to produce milk, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
A group of veterinarians, one of whom was an administrator for the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, published a paper this month that confirmed the need for an overseas vaccine bank to counter foot-and-mouth disease. According to the release, they concluded there’s a need for more vaccinations and that they must be produced overseas because current U.S. law forbids storing these viruses on the U.S. mainland because of the risk of accidental release.
“Although the U.S. currently participates in the North American Foot and Mouth Disease Vaccine Bank, the need for a vaccine bank dedicated to the U.S. Livestock industry is clear,” according
to the release. “The number of different vaccine concentrates … is restricted to only those thought to be most likely to enter the U.S.”
Even if the vaccine is available for an outbreak, the amount is limited and would only yield enough to respond to a small, confined outbreak.
Although the last detection of the disease in the U.S. was in 1929, its endemic in other parts of the world. The last major outbreak in 2001 resulted in the destruction of 6 million animals costing the United Kingdom an estimated $34.5 billion.
Contained cases of footand-mouth disease have already been spotted this week.
Tuesday, a shipment of Colombian beef en route to Russia was sent back after authorities were notified of diseased animals in Colombia. Chile and Peru have also temporarily suspended beef imports from Colombia.
While veterinarians are campaigning for more vaccines, some Brazil beef ranchers are claiming that such medications are the cause of the U.S. import ban the country is dealing with.
Brazil’s government is investigating the substances in its foot-and-mouth disease vaccinations. The country’s beef ranchers blame the government-mandated vaccines for the sores and abscesses on their cattle, which failed USDA sanitary inspections. Brazilian veterinarian medical suppliers say the ranchers claims are highly unlikely.