Citing the seriousness of the disease and the devastation it could cause the U.S. livestock industry, the National Pork Producers Council today urged congressional lawmakers and the Obama administration to make dealing with an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease a priority.
“Improving preparedness for an FMD outbreak through development of an adequate vaccine bank must be a priority,” testified NPPC immediate past president Howard Hill, a veterinarian and pork producer from Cambridge, Iowa, before a subcommittee of the House Committee on Agriculture.
FMD, a foreign animal disease endemic in Africa, Asia, South America and the Middle East, can affect all cloven-hoofed animals, including pigs, cattle and sheep. While it rarely infects humans and isn’t a food safety issue, an outbreak in North America, which currently is free of it, could negatively affect meat exports and domestic meat sales.
To deal with any foreign animal disease outbreak, the U.S. pork industry has been working with the USDA on a “Secure Pork Supply” plan, which would enhance coordination and communication among producers and federal, state and local government officials, support continuity of operations for producers and accelerate disease response. Part of that response would be vaccinating susceptible animals.
But, Hill pointed out to the House agriculture panel’s Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture that the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service currently doesn’t have enough vaccine or the ability to obtain it to adequately deal with an FMD outbreak. He said improving the vaccine bank will require:
- Contracting with an offshore, vendor-maintained vaccine antigen bank that would have available antigen concentrate to protect against all 23 of the most common FMD types currently circulating in the world.
- Maintaining a vendor-managed inventory of 10 million doses of vaccine, which is the estimated need for the first two weeks of an outbreak.
- Contracting with an international manufacturer or manufacturers for the surge capacity to produce at least 40 million doses.
U.S. law prohibits live FMD virus from being on the U.S. mainland, so APHIS contracts with foreign vaccine production companies to produce finished vaccine from the antigen stored at Plum Island Animal Disease Center, off the coast of Long Island, N.Y. Only a limited number of FMD strains are covered by the antigen stored at Plum Island, and under current production contracts, only 2.5 million doses of vaccine could be produced within three weeks of an outbreak.