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Kansas Department of Agriculture conducts agricultural preparedness exercise

By Doug Rich

The Kansas Department of Agriculture held an emergency preparedness exercise Oct. 9 to 10 to practice the state’s response to a foreign animal disease outbreak. The two-day exercise was at the Biosecurity Research Institute in Manhattan, Kan.

Over 50 agencies and related organizations and nearly 200 people participated in the functional exercise, which was based on the premise of a confirmed case of Foot and Mouth Disease in an Alabama livestock market.

“In a real event these agencies would be mobilized as quickly as possible,” Dr. Bill Brown, Kansas Animal Health Commissioner, said. “Once we form that planning and operations team, we would want all of the industry representatives right here at a central location where they could participate.”

Quickly mobilizing a team to implement a stop movement order and closing the state’s borders is important for two reasons. First, Brown said FMD is the most contagious and infectious animal virus in the world. For example, Brown said it takes several thousand virus particles to spread the common cold while it only takes two virus particles to infect an animal with FMD. Second, Kansas is one of two states that have the most in-shipments of cattle in the United States. The other state is Nebraska.

In the event of a confirmed case of FMD, Kansas would issue a stop movement order for all livestock across and within Kansas. The Kansas Highway Patrol would require all vehicles transporting livestock to stop at checkpoints and receive a special permit and additional instructions before traveling any farther. Livestock entering Kansas from outbreak areas would be traced and subject to inspection and possible testing for FMD.

Brown said in the event of a real FMD outbreak the stop movement order would apply to all cloven hoofed animals including cattle, sheep, swine, goats, and deer.

“We have to get ready for this because a lot of cattle come from the southeast,” Brown said.

One group noticeable missing from this exercise was the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which would be very involved if there were a confirmed case of FMD. Because of the government shutdown, no USDA personnel participated in the exercise. Brown said they thought about postponing the event, but the state has been planning this for two years and they could not waste all the time and money already spent on the exercise.

The purpose of this exercise was to evaluate plans and procedures that have been developed and revised since the Stop Animal Movement Statewide exercise held with Oklahoma in 2009. The KDA Division of Animal Health has been working with more than 50 stakeholders to refine plans and develop Memorandums of Understanding with border states to ensure collaboration and continuity of business for the livestock industry should a highly contagious disease outbreak occur in the U.S.

The last time FMD was identified in the U.S. was in 1929. The last case identified in Canada was in 1954. FMD is not a human food safety concern or public health threat.

The exercise was funded with a grant provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Doug Rich can be reached by phone at 785-749-5304 or by email at richhpj@aol.com.

Date: 10/21/2013

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