FMD Prepardness - USA : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

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Patricia Doyle FMD Preparedness, USA Mon Apr 30 15:47:20 2001

Date: 29 Apr 2001 From: ProMED-mail Source: Associated Press 27 Apr 2001 [edited]

The USA government is encouraging farmers to report any signs of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), promising to pay fair market value for any livestock killed as a result.

The highly contagious virus has devastated Britain's livestock industry this spring. Related outbreaks in France, the Netherlands and Ireland have been contained.

“If you don't get early detection and an early hit, we won't look like France, we'll look like England,'' Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said.

Details of the compensation program are still being worked out between the US Agriculture Department (USDA) and the White House Budget Office. In addition to paying for livestock, the agency also may compensate farmers for additional expenses, such as the costs of disposal and disinfection. Livestock producers also want compensation for income they would lose during a quarantine.

The department has broad legal authority to spend whatever money it needs to control an outbreak of animal and plant diseases. The money comes from a revolving fund, known as the Commodity Credit Corp., that is used for farm programs.

At a hearing of the House agricultural appropriations subcommittee, Veneman said U.S. farmers can report the disease “with the full assurance that they will be indemnified.''

FMD has not been reported in the United States since 1929, but the latest outbreak in Europe has heightened fears that it could return. The department has banned the import of livestock and meat from Uruguay, the latest country in South America to report an outbreak.

David Huxsoll, the director of an agency lab that studies the disease, recently said the chances of a U.S. outbreak were “quite great,'' given the amount people travel between the United States and Britain. Veneman deflected questions about Huxsoll's comment, saying the department was doing everything it could to keep the virus out of the country. The department has banned imports of livestock and raw meat from the European Union and increased its inspection staff at international airports. The Departments web site is

-- ProMED-mail

[In the first posting in the series on US preparedness (ref. above), the first article, about nuclear disaster software for forecasting plume movement, was intended for the UK updates on FMD. - Mod.TG]

***** [2] Date: 30 Apr 2001 From: Jack Woodall

FMD threat to USA: A radical proposal

It has previous been suggested that, in the event of the arrival of FMD in the USA, vaccination will be pointless since vaccine stocks are inadequate to provide any kind of barrier, & would best be used to protect breeding stock [see: Foot & mouth disease - EU: use of vaccination (03) 20010329.0636].

It was also argued that mass culling would not be the way to go -- selective culling could be instituted, but at a projected cost to the economy of $8000 per head for cattle, or $8 billion for each million head sacrificed, the point of unbearable financial pain would soon be reached [see: Foot & mouth disease, mass culling issue - USA 20010404.0673].

A further complication would be that farmers would undoubtedly slap restraining orders on the USDA to postpone both vaccination & culling, wrecking the whole exercise. And although experience in other countries has shown that the logistics of culling are best handled by the military, the US public could well object to daily TV coverage of the National Guard slaughtering healthy livestock by the hundreds of thousands, and the smoke from the pyres rising all over rural America, polluting the air and water.

So if vaccination is out, & culling will be hindered until it´s too late to be effective, what´s the solution? Consider the following scenario. Many different conditions apart from FMD can produce blisters on the mouths & feet of livestock, but in a climate of apprehension the smart farmer will, at the first sign of a suspicious lesion, sell the affected beasts. When a responsible vet gets to see a genuine case, the implications will be so grave that USDA confirmation will be required before the official announcement. This might take a week, time for 2 cycles of viral replication, & for the farmer & his neighbors to sell before a movement ban is slapped on them. The stock will be in Texas in 24 hours. No 3km or 10km or any radius cull of adjoining farms will then be of the slightest use. At the official confirmation of the first case of FMD, Japan & South Korea, which between them buy 60% of all US beef exports, will slap a ban on US beef & pork. Other countries will follow suit. Beef prices will fall, beef futures will fall, rapidly followed by pork belly futures, since pigs can also be infected.

A state-wide ban on livestock movement will be impossible to enforce, since US cattle do not carry individual ID´s & passports like UK cattle, & state borders are wide open. The disease will run out of control much faster than it did in the UK.

Proponents of mass culling will object that stamping out did succeed in eradicating FMD outbreaks in Italy in 1993 and in Greece in 1994 & 1996. -- & maybe in France this year (but the chance for re-infection in France remains). But those countries have nothing like the livestock population size & speed of movement that the US has. It takes about 6 months of disinfection before a culled farm is ready for restocking, but if cases are still occurring elsewhere which result in a movement ban in the area, it will not be possible to restockat that time, and the farmer may lose an entire breeding cycle. How is he supposed to survive financially in those circumstances?

Vaccination proponents will say that vaccination worked for years in Euope until it was banned there in 1990-1991. But there is not enough vaccine available in the world to do any good in the US context. Plus, for the US to obtain FMD-free status, all vaccinated livestock will have to be destroyed eventually.

So what does this all boil down to? The US will just have to give up its FMD-free status, join the ranks of other big meat producing countries that have lost theirs, such as Argentina, Uruguay & Brazil (partially), and accept the reduction in productivity of flocks & herds caused by FMD infection. Australia & New Zealand will not be able to make up the shortfall in FMD-free beef on the international market, and exports of US beef will slowly rise again. The financial pain will be uncomfortable, but not nearly as severe as if several million head of livestock had to be slaughtered and disposed of. Somebody should run the numbers and confirm this.

What will happen, of course, in real life is that the US will repeat all the mistakes made in the UK in dealing with the current outbreak there. It will be too slow to implement the first cull, too slow to enforce movement restrictions, offer disincentive levels of pay to veterinarians and of compensation to the farmers, and still be wasting time talking about vaccination 10 weeks after the first recognized case occurred. Politicially, it probably has to develop like that. But in the end, as the legal challenges multiply & the economy begins to falter, it will be recognized that the most cost-beneficial solution will be to let the epidemic run its natural course.

So now let´s hear the arguments against this radical proposal.

-­ Jack Woodall Nucleus for Investigating Emerging Infectious Diseases Dept. of Medical Biochemistry Institute of Biomedical Sciences Federal University of Rio de Janeiro Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

-- suzy (, April 30, 2001


Here is some further discussion on Jack Woodall's comments (whom I have met, by the way). I urge anyone with special interest in this topic to check out the ongoing discussion on (from which this post is drawn), only part of which is being cross-posted here to GICC. (Besides the PROMED website, you can also subscribe to PROMED and get information on a wide variety of public health issues).


FOOT & MOUTH DISEASE, PREPAREDNESS - USA (04) Date: Fri, 4 May 2001 08:16:25 -0400 (EDT) A ProMED-mail post ProMED-mail, a program of the International Society for Infectious Diseases

From: Tom McGinn [edited] Date: 2 May 2001

Jack Woodall's "modest proposal" is thought-provoking. I compliment him on taking a tack which forces a thorough evaluation of the actions that could be taken to avoid living with the disease. Some countries have been successful at fending off the threat and accepting endemicity. Just this past year, Japan, Korea, and perhaps France fall into that category. In fact, advance preparations and speedy action make a huge difference. We can learn from the UK experience; if we are well prepared, we need not repeat the mistakes of the past.

It appears to me that the key to controlling re-emerging diseases, such as the global pandemic of Foot and Mouth, is a combination of intensive disease surveillance (to identify the incursion of an exotic disease) and emergency preparedness (to stamp it out before it spreads widely). If we strike out on these 2 counts, then indeed we might find ourselves in the very difficult scenarios Jack Woodall sketches out.

These premises beg the question of how much we should spend on prevention and surveillance. One way to calculate spending for FMD prevention is in proportion to the cost of cleanup multiplied by some factor that changes with the probability of infection for a state, region or country. This could best be determined by risk assessment.

The Economist suggests the cost of cleanup may be stated along the following lines: A recent report on the effect of the FMD crisis in Britain from accountants at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) postulates an "optimistic" scenario and a "pessimistic" scenario. In the optimistic scenario, the loss to the agricultural industry this year will be a mere GBP 500 million (US $720 million). In the pessimistic scenario, it rises to GBP 1.6 billion. But Britain's domestic tourism is worth much more than its overseas tourism, and in PWC's "pessimistic" scenario losses there will amount to GBP 3.4 billion. Overall, the impact of the foot-and-mouth crisis on Britain in 2001 could be between GBP 2.5 and 8 billion, or between 0.3% and 0.8% of GDP.

A recent meeting of US federal emergency management officials from a wide array of agencies and departments considered the incursion of FMD into the United States to be probable instead of possible.

The USDA FY (Fiscal Year) 2002 budget provides US $849 million in program funding for USDA's Animal Plant Health and Inspection Service (APHIS), an increase of $174 million over 2001. The budget also strengthens the Agriculture Quarantine Inspection Program (AQI), which helps protect the U.S. against animal diseases like foot-and- mouth and BSE.

To continue strengthening these important programs, Veneman [Head of USDA] announced the authorization of an additional $32 million to hire approximately 350 additional personnel at critical ports and international airports to protect against pests and diseases. This authorization of personnel includes 127 permanent officers and technicians, 27 canine officers, 173 temporary inspector positions, and 20 veterinarians. These positions are over and above the levels indicated in the FY 2001 and FY 2002 budgets, and will be financed from available revenues in the APHIS user fee account. This decision provides an additional $13.5 million in resources for FY 2001 and $18.6 million for FY 2002 for staffing.

What determines how much we should spend on prevention? Does anyone have hard data on projected national or regional costs under various scenarios of FMD spread? Are there good estimates of the probability of entry into the United States, estimates which are hopefully informed by the current global prevalence of FMD? Is there any mechanism for tracking changes in probability over time, one of the key indicators in how much should be spent on prevention?

Nations are used to spending money for disasters like FMD once they occur. Spending real dollars to prevent disease from occurring has always been a tough, uphill battle, politically. Any hard data or soft opinions would be welcome. - -- Tom McGinn, DVM, North Carolina Department of Agriculture,

[David Harvey´s working paper on the current epidemic in the UK projected a worst case cost of GBP 10 billion (US $15 billion), 20% more than the PWC estimate. Javier Ekboir´s estimates for the worst case cost of an outbreak in California are US $9.3 billion to the State plus another US $4.2 billion in lost US trade, totaling US $13.5 billion -- referable to a single state. It would be good if someone could tell us how much FEMA has currently available in disaster funds. The UK MAFF website shows that although some compensation was available to UK farmers last month (April 2001), the balance will not be paid until October. Would US farmers accept a delay of 7 months before payment? - Mod.JW]


FOOT & MOUTH DISEASE, PREPAREDNESS - USA (05) Date: Fri, 4 May 2001 08:29:55 -0400 (EDT) A ProMED-mail post ProMED-mail, a program of the International Society for Infectious Diseases

From: Ken Waldrup, DVM, PhD [edited] Date: 4 May 2001

The observations that "mistakes" have been made by MAFF in the UK and those same "mistakes" would be made by the USA are interesting, coming from an outside source in South America.

I would counter that MAFF has learned and adapted from situations that have arisen during the current UK crisis, and the USA (along with those American veterinarians who have been in the UK assisting MAFF) also is trying to learn and prepare. It appears to me the more rapid culling of infected animals and animals immediately adjacent to infected farms has worked. Simply looking at the daily incidence of new cases shows that.

Has this been a popular decision in the UK? No. Would such actions in the USA be popular? Probably not, but the UK experience offers us the opportunity to strengthen our response. In the USA, we know we must impose movement restrictions at least statewide or possibly regionally as soon as possible.

USDA Veterinary Services is working very hard at the national level, and many states are working just as diligently at the state level to educate government officials, producer groups, and other stakeholders about what will be needed to combat FMD.

A multi-faceted response from multiple agencies will be necessary. Education is a VITAL element to combating FMD. All of the stakeholders need to be fully aware of what will happen.

Yes, the USA could live with FMD or a long-term vaccination program, but I would suggest our current system of beef production would suffer greatly. FMD does not always simply "run its course," especially in a naive population.

I suggest comment from countries with endemic FMD would be appropriate here. Would you rather live with FMD or without it? From my own conversations with a trusted veterinary colleague who has worked in Africa and my own observations in the UK, I believe the US animal industry would lose at least 20% of its current efficiency as far as meat production is concerned. The present US system of finish- feeding would be very hard-hit, and meat prices to the consumer would therefore increase, probably for a long time to come.

Cattle producers in the USA are not subsidized as in the EU, and I believe many smaller producers could not absorb the added costs of production (and overt losses) caused by endemic FMD.

There are now reports of free-ranging deer having lesions consistent with FMD in the UK. The USA has far larger populations of deer and elk, and at greater densities than many areas of the UK. Trying to "live with FMD" would very likely compromise our wildlife populations and our management efforts regarding those populations, because vaccination of free-ranging ungulates is very difficult, if not impossible.

One of the things I have stressed in my meetings with livestock producers and other officials is that FMD eradication would not be a painless path in the USA. I believe state and federal government can try to mitigate the difficulties for their constituents as best they can, but there will still be problems. As a regulatory veterinarian, I firmly believe the absence of diseases such as FMD has positively contributed to the progress of animal-based industries in the USA. Simply surrendering to the problem of FMD is a step backward, in my opinion.

Having worked with MAFF (UK) field staff in Lancashire, I salute the efforts these people have made and their accomplishments. I also salute those farmers who have been affected. My particular agency in the USA holds the tenet that we work for our producers, and we will follow their lead whenever possible. Thus far our producers do not wish to live with FMD (they truly do not want it in the first place) so we will continue to plan for eradication should the infection rear its ugly little head in North America. Thank you for your consideration.

Ken Waldrup, DVM, PhD, Texas Animal Health Commission,

[Does anyone seriously believe movement restrictions can be enforced in the USA, given that farmers living next to a farm with even a suspected case are very likely to ship their livestock before restrictions are imposed? Remember, US livestock do not have animal passports as they do in the UK. Infected livestock from the index case in the UK had passed through 6 widely separated markets in the week before the outbreak was confirmed on 20 Feb 2001, with sales from just one of those (Longtown) giving rise to over 200 subsequent cases. - Mod.JW]

-- Andre Weltman (, May 04, 2001.

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