Oklahoma farmers and ranchers are urged to keep a sharp lookout for anything out of the ordinary and to check their livestock on a regular basis. State animal health officials say the best defense against bioterrorism or foreign animal diseases is early detection.

"Producers and local veterinarians are our first-line defense and we are asking everyone to be on the lookout for anything suspicious," said Dr. Burke Healey, State Veterinarian for the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture. "The immediate discovery and reporting of an outbreak of a disease will be necessary for us to quickly diagnose, control and eradicate the threat."

Signs to look for include sudden, unexplained death losses in herds and flocks; severe illness affecting a high percentage of animals; blistering around an animal's nose, hooves or teats; unusual ticks or maggots; and central nervous system disorders that cause an animal to stagger or fall. Healey said producers should contact their local veterinarian immediately if they observe any of these warning signs.

"Local veterinarians provide the quickest initial response since they are nearby," he said. "They know what to look for and can best determine if immediate action needs to be taken as well as beginning first-step actions to contain a possible outbreak."

Suspicious activities or vehicles on or near your farm or ranch should be reported to local law enforcement authorities immediately, Healey added. If possible write down tag numbers and the physical description of all vehicles and people visible.

"Hunting season has begun and there will be a lot of traffic and people in rural areas," he said. "My advice is to be wary of allowing anyone you don't know on your property."

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