ASI Calls for Bolstered FMD Preparedness

Foot-and-mouth disease in sheep can be difficult to detect during the early stages, which means it is important for the United States to have an accessible vaccine bank ready to meet demand in case of an outbreak, said Cindy Wolf, DVM, in testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture on Thursday in Washington, D.C.

Wolf serves as co-chair of the American Sheep Industry Association's Animal Health Committee and is also the small ruminant veterinary specialist with the University of Minnesota's College of Veterinary Medicine. A longtime sheep producer, Wolf understands the frequent movements of sheep around the country and realizes the risks such movements present with relation to an airborne illness such as foot-and-mouth disease.

"One of the lessons learned from the 2001 FMD outbreak in the United Kingdom was that sheep were carrying and distributing the virus across the country and throughout marketing channels, spreading it to other livestock, before the disease was recognized," she testified. "Therefore, early detection, animal traceability, movement restrictions and vaccination is essential to averting a very large outbreak in the United States."

While the United States hasn't had an FMD outbreak since 1929, current vaccine supplies are inadequate should FMD return to this country.

"It is essential to the security of U.S. agriculture and the country that we are fully prepared and ready to produce potentially needed doses of the appropriate serotype in an extremely rapid timeframe," said Wolf. "The American sheep industry appreciates the support of this committee in furthering a plan to bolster our preparedness for an FMD outbreak."

As part of its preparedness strategy, ASI is a member of the FMD Cross-Species Communications Team, which is comprised of national sheep, beef cattle, swine and dairy cattle associations.