USDA To Test Animal Health Emergency Management System

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will conduct a test exercise this fiscal year of its Regional Emergency Animal Disease Eradication Organization (READEO) system.

"If an exotic disease such as hog cholera or highly pathogenic avian influenza were to breach U.S. borders, our READEO teams would be called into action," said Craig A. Reed, administrator for APHIS, a part of USDA's marketing and regulatory programs mission area. "Regular practice ensures that the system is working and ready."

If a foreign animal disease became established in American livestock or poultry, the economic consequences to producers and consumers would be severe. For example, APHIS' eradication of a highly pathogenic avian influenza in the United States, following an outbreak in 1983-84, resulted in the destruction of more than 17 million birds and cost taxpayers nearly $65 million.

"In recent years we have seen animal diseases wreak havoc on other parts of the world: bovine spongiform encephalopathy in Great Britain, foot-and-mouth disease in Taiwan, and hog cholera in the Netherlands and the Dominican Republic," said Reed. "Again and again, we are reminded of how important it is to be prepared."

READEO team members are highly trained and ready to fight exotic diseases and parasites anywhere in the United States. READEO personnel confirm the presence of exotic disease, inspect infected and exposed animals, and appraise the value of animals that may have to be destroyed.

These employees conduct vaccination programs and epidemiologic studies and are trained to dispose of animal carcasses, clean and disinfect premises, set and enforce regulations against disease spread, and control disease carriers.

Responding to a disease outbreak requires cooperation among APHIS personnel, state animal health officials, industry, and the public. APHIS takes the lead in coordinating the efforts of these groups and ensures that the methods for eradicating an outbreak remain current as new technology and research become available.

A recent enhancement to READEO is a three-member Early Response Team. The ERT can be deployed anywhere in the United States within 24 hours to assess a disease situation that may lead to the activation of READEO. In the event of an activation, team members can quickly set up field operations to lead an eradication effort.

"When we initiate the READEO exercise, we notify state animal health authorities, industry representatives, international trading partners, and other federal agencies to assure them that it's a practice test, and not a real disease outbreak," said Reed.

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with FREE weekly newsletters from Learn More

Free Newsletters

Sign up for the latest in:

From our partners