Back to website

Dear Dr Vanier

I have followed press reports of  "Exercise High Plains Guardian" with interest and concern.

Has no one suggested that since, in 2001, foot and mouth was eliminated in Uruguay  in a matter of weeks  with vaccination administered by farmers themselves - this would be a more humane and less expensive solution?   Can the trade problems not be changed to fit current science rather than the other way round?

The availablity now of  computerised and GIS linked on-farm rapid diagnosis in real time makes a mass slaughter policy  even more difficult to comprehend.  Even vaccination does not have to be undertaken other than in a limited ring fence around the infection.

I ask because I watched the UK policies  - and miseries  - very closely indeed in 2001.  Vaccination was ruled out - but for reasons that remain very unclear indeed and were certainly not veterinary ones.

Is neither vaccination nor the use of rapid diagnosis (and therefore very limited euthanasia)  to be contemplated in the US?

Yours sincerely

Mary Critchley

Dear Ms. Critchley,

Thank you for your message.

There are situations in which ring vaccination is an appropriate response or
control measure for an FMD outbreak.  As you are well aware FMD spreads
very rapidly through susceptible populations.  Currently ring vaccination is
not considered the first option in attempting to contain the spread of this
explosive disease.  That policy may possibly be changed depending on the
conditions surrounding a real-world outbreak should there ever be one in the
U.S.  Consequently our efforts are directed toward planning and training
under current response policy.

Thank you for your interest in this important matter.

Marty Vanier, DVM
National Agricultural Biosecurity Center

Re "Exercise High Plains Guardian"

"....In the aftermath of an actual foot and mouth disease outbreak, it would take years to bring Kansas cattle operations back to full commercial productivity. The total cumulative economic loss would amount to billions of dollars, according to exercise planners.

The Kansas National Guard and other emergency first responders faced a simulated scenario: over the course of a disease outbreak, more than 50 Kansas cattle operations are affected and 1 million animals have to be destroyed and buried.

The outbreak scenario required quarantines, highway closings, elapsed time waiting for federal lab results to confirm the suspicions of state veterinarians, and after positive identification of foot and mouth as the disease involved, a massive euthanization and carcass disposal effort...."

See also the LA Times report Farmlands Seen as Fertile for Terrorism