Veterinarian says putting NBAF in Kansas will enhance crucial response time to such cases
When it comes to animal disease outbreaks, Steve Henry, a practicing veterinarian from Abilene, knows from long experience that speed and accuracy in diagnosis, testing and treatment are essential in stopping a disease from spreading.
That's why Henry, who also is an adjunct professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology at Kansas State University, is looking forward to having the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan. Henry said putting the national center for animal health protection efforts in the middle of the nation and next to K-State, a university that specializes in food safety and security, can only better the critical response time to animal disease outbreaks.
Henry said it also will bring the added bonus of collaborations between NBAF and the noted food and livestock safety researchers at K-State and the university's Biosecurity Research Institute in Pat Roberts Hall--the only research and training facility in the U.S. that can accommodate veterinary medicine, plant pathology, food safety and molecular biology research under one roof.
Henry has been a user of the services to be offered by NBAF.
"I have experience in a number of cases where animals in Kansas showed signs of foreign animal disease, cases that triggered our U.S. response system," he said. "It is because of my experiences I believe the current system can be vastly improved."
Response time is literally measured in "million-dollar hours" in cases of possible animal disease outbreaks, Henry said.
"Having the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility located in the thick of the livestock industry can only enhance response time, as most samples originate in and around Kansas," Henry said. "Nearly half of the nation's fed cattle, 40 percent of the U.S. hog population, and 20 percent of the U.S. beef cows and calves are within a 350-mile radius of Manhattan."
Henry has often been one of the first veterinarians on the scene when it comes to dealing with animal disease outbreaks in Kansas and the region. He said the remote location of the current Plum Island Animal Disease Center in New York makes it difficult for the crucial interactions needed with the scientists at the center and the veterinarians at the heart of a possible outbreak.
It is something Henry dealt with firsthand.
"On Sept. 1, 2001, a client of mine loaded a truck with slaughter hogs from a south-central Nebraska facility, bound for a slaughter facility in southern California," Henry said. "While awaiting slaughter, the pigs developed acute lameness and had lesions suggesting they might have foot-and-mouth disease. The animals were dying."
Henry said the U.S. Department of Agriculture began investigating the matter 98 hours after the pigs had left Nebraska. Samples were sent to Plum Island.
"The good news was the results came back negative, but it took 124 hours after the pigs had reached California to determine this," he said. "In the meantime, the truck that transported the pigs had taken a load of calves back to a Nebraska sale barn, where most had already been sold. This was before the diagnosis from Plum Island. Had this been a case of foot-and-mouth, the disease would have made its way deep into the central U.S. livestock industry."