Five Animal Health Topics to Think About

Some labels don’t have specified duration of use and FDA is working to collect more information for science-based duration-of-use guidelines. ( John Maday )

Behind the scenes, animal health officials are working on behalf of producers and the livestock industry. Some issues are top-of-mind, like African swine fever, but others might not be on your radar. Participants of the National Assembly of State Animal Health Officials met on Friday, Oct. 25, in conjunction with the 2019 U.S. Animal Health Association (USAHA) annual meeting in Providence, R.I. Here are six topics of interest discussed during the meeting.

1.  Flurry of activity on antibiotic use: Ron Phillips, vice-president of legislative and public affairs for the Animal Health Institute provided an update on antibiotics legislation and regulation. Several states have drafted or passed legislation in the last three to five years with similar themes. “Many of these issues also are being addressed on the federal level,” Phillips said. Recent data shows a significant decline in the sale of medically important antibiotics in 2017 (a 33% decline from 2016 and 43% lower than the peak year of 2015). FDA is in the process of getting use information, which will be a better indicator than sales data. All remaining medically important products will be moved from over-the-counter sale to Rx by 2022. Duration-of-use information on labels also will be addressed, Phillips said. “Some labels don’t have specified duration of use and FDA is working to collect more information for science-based duration-of-use guidelines,” he said.

2.  Addressing gaps in regulation and oversight: Greater regulatory clarity is needed around animal movement between the exclusive economic zones (EEZ) and state shores, said Dr. Warren Hess with the American Veterinary Medical Association. An EEZ is a sea zone prescribed by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, over which a state has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind. Participants want to see more guidance and regulation on aquatic animal health matters including disease reporting and management. More research and expanded education and training is needed, Hess said. On non-EEZ aquatic issues, the AVMA believes aquatic animal movement should be regulated like terrestrial animals, in which case they would be regulated by state departments of agriculture, and rules for aquatic animal movement would be risk-based like most terrestrial animals. He also discussed animal air travel issues and the AVMA is helping educate private veterinarians as well as the airlines on these issues. Algal bloom is another hot topic. “You’re going to hear more about harmful algal blooms from AVMA,” he said. “We want veterinarians to know more about it, where to go for more information and how to report it.”

3.  The Center for Disease Control powers compliance and communication for animal health: Dr. Julie Sinclair, with CDC’s One Health office, shared a multitude of issues in which the CDC is involved. The office has been in existence for 10 years and serves as the liaison for the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). Importation of dogs is an issue, she said. The CDC regulates the importation of dogs and cats into the U.S. A ban was recently placed on dogs coming from Egypt (the third rabid dog from Egypt was recently identified). “There’s not a veterinarian in the room today who’s comfortable with the lack of regulation on the importation of dogs, and the challenge is always with the regulations,” Sinclair said. “Basically, if a group like USAHA were to say, ‘Hey, we need more in regard to dog imports,’ I think the federal government would listen to that.” The CDC also works on foodborne, waterborne and environmental diseases, bacterial pathogens, vector-borne diseases, and much more.

4.  Funding for diagnostic laboratories is critical: Veterinary diagnostic labs handle millions of tests each year, said Dr. Deep Tewari, president-elect of AAVLD, and director of the Pennsylvania Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. In fact, the Iowa State VDL alone handles more than 1.4 million tests each year. The U.S. Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory System has many goals on which it has made progress: Improve animal and human health, enhance disease detection through laboratory networks, identify novel and emerging microbial strains, ensure food safety and security, and improve quality of U.S. animals and animal products. “The main mission is still supporting animal health,” Tewari said. This mission takes money, and AAVLD is asking for additional funds to meet its goals. AAVLD accreditation is a voluntary, third party-reviewed process. The organization has been revamping its standards, particularly related to risk assessment.

5.  Markets are private businesses: Pierce Bennett, government and industry affairs associate for the Livestock Marketing Association, reminded the animal health officials that livestock markets are private businesses. “We’ve been very good at skipping right over the markets,” when there’s talk about how to handle a foreign animal disease outbreak, Bennett said. Market owners want to work with industry and officials, and they want to know what they are – and are not – supposed to do if they get a call. “These are private businesses – unless they say you can place livestock there, you don’t get to just place them there,” he said. “We need a better outline of protocols, of who’s going to handle an event. We’re always open to changes, and we’d like to get some support behind it.”

The 2019 USAHA meeting covers topics ranging from zoonotic diseases, to regulations, to specific diseases in cattle, horses, sheep, cervids, poultry and pigs, and much more. Leaders from government, industry and academia gather alongside producers to find solutions to health issues that can help animal agriculture thrive.

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