TB, African Swine Fever and Newcastle Are Big Health Concerns

With increased travel for both people and animals, disease challenges are greater than ever. ( Farm Journal )

It’s not until you get a group of animal health professionals together that you realize how many issues they deal with on a daily basis. The U.S. Animal Health Association USAHA) provides such a forum, bringing together animal health leaders from government, private practice and industry who work alongside livestock producers and human health representatives. The problems are many and varied, but for 122 years, solutions have been crafted with collaboration and compromise through USAHA.

Members of 30 different committees convene throughout the seven-day annual meeting, where they provide updates, discuss emerging diseases and consider resolutions. Here are just a few highlights from Sunday’s meetings:

  • Tuberculosis: This disease continues to be a problem in North Central states. Some of the recent isolates haven’t been seen for 20 years. “Every state vet in the country wants to get rid of this disease,” says Dr. Jack Shere, Deputy Administrator and Chief Veterinary Officer of USDA's Veterinary Service (VS). "We're going to continue down the path of eradication." The problem is identifying how it's getting into herds or where the disease is coming from. Shere vowed to work with states to figure out a plan forward that the cattle industry will support.  “I’m a believer in technology and moving this forward, and we just need to keep looking,” he says.
  • Newcastle Disease: An endemic strain has been identified in California, but officials are working hard to keep it under control. "Reducing the density of birds seems to be key to stopping the continued spread of Newcastle Disease,” says Dr. Barbara Porter-Spalding, who is with National Preparedness and Incident Coordination (NPIC), USDA, APHIS, VS. Annette Jones, DVM, State Veterinarian and Director, Animal Health and Food Safety Services, California Dept. of Food and Agriculture adds, “The strain we have this year is very similar to the strain we had in 2003. It’s spread is by bird movement, fomites (people, supplies, etc.); mortality, pests, and wild birds. There are wild flocks of parrots that live in the LA area.”
  • African Swine Fever: There is currently no vaccine or treatment available for ASF and it is unlikely that an effective vaccine will become available to aid in the control of an outbreak, reports Dr. Paul Sundberg, director of the Swine Health Information Center. This increases the importance of rapid detection and aggressive measures to stamp out infected herds. The disease has spread in China as well as in other parts of Europe, and Sundberg points out that USDA has no formal active ASF surveillance program in the U.S.  Currently, USDA allows an official ASF PCR test to be done only on whole blood submitted to the National Animal Health Laboratory (NAHLN) veterinary diagnostic laboratories (VDLs). A resolution is being considered by USAHA members that would request USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to immediately begin a formal ASF surveillance program in the U.S. In addition, the resolution requests approval for tonsil, spleen and lymph nodes as additional tissues for official ASF testing in the NAHLN laboratories. More on ASF to follow.

These overviews barely scratch the surface of the in-depth reports presented on Sunday, Oct. 21. Look for more highlights in the next three days, and follow #USAHA18 on Twitter and Facebook.