In mid-December, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship co-hosted a foreign animal disease planning and preparation workshop with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), with support provided by Iowa State University Center for Food Security & Public Health.
The two-day tabletop exercise, held Dec. 15-16, brought state and federal animal health officials, Iowa livestock producers and industry representatives together to test the state's plans to distribute a Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) vaccine if an outbreak occurs.
FMD is a highly contagious virus that affects animals with cloven hooves, including cattle, pigs, sheep and goats. While FMD causes sores and mobility and production challenges in livestock, it does not present public health or food safety concerns; FMD is not the same virus that causes Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease in humans.
If an outbreak occurs, there would be a limited supply of FMD vaccines available. Iowa has drafted vaccination plans to prioritize affected species and classes of animals and to distribute the vaccine to stop the spread of the disease.
During the two-day exercise, representatives from the Iowa Department of Agriculture, USDA, Iowa State University Center for Food Security & Public Health and livestock industry groups discussed the criteria that would trigger an FMD vaccine request, how state and federal animal health officials would obtain and distribute the vaccines, and how vaccinated animals will be tracked through the supply chain.
"Any foreign animal disease outbreak would be emotionally and economically devastating to Iowa's livestock producers. FMD affects multiple animal species so it has the potential to cause widespread disruptions to the food supply chain," said Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig. "This exercise helped us identify the strengths and areas for improvement in our state's FMD vaccination strategy. Based on what we learned, we'll refine our plans to more effectively control an outbreak and minimize the impact of FMD on animal health and production, the food supply and the economy."
Every livestock producer in Iowa should register their livestock facilities with the Iowa Department of Agriculture's Premises Identification Program. State animal health officials will use this information to contact livestock producers if an outbreak occurs.
While there may be an FMD vaccination available to protect some livestock, following biosecurity best practices every day on the farm is a producer's best line of defense against any foreign animal disease.
This FMD vaccination strategy workshop was the latest in a series of actions the Iowa Department of Agriculture has taken to help livestock producers plan and prepare for a potential foreign animal disease outbreak.