Two decades after the September 11 attacks shaped American resolve against terror, the federal government dedicated a $1.25 billion agro-defense laboratory in eastern Kansas on Wednesday to protect the U.S. food supply from zoonotic animal diseases. The National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility will conduct research on dangerous livestock diseases, such as foot-and-mouth disease, and develop countermeasures, such as vaccines.
In an achievement the USDA described as a major step for science and agriculture, scientists at the Agricultural Research Service have developed a vaccine candidate that protects hogs from the deadly African swine fever.
In a step to protect U.S. swine and pork exports, the USDA said on Thursday that it will establish a "foreign animal disease protection zone" in two Caribbean territories, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. African swine fever was confirmed a month ago in the Dominican Republic.
The USDA will boost its surveillance among animals for diseases such as Covid-19 and create an early warning system against zoonotic diseases that threaten people and animals alike, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Tuesday. Early detection could prevent or limit the spread of the diseases. "Up to 75 percent of emerging infectious diseases in humans can also impact the health of animals—we’ve seen this link firsthand with COVID-19,” said Vilsack. The USDA planned to spend $300 million in pandemic relief money for the new project on zoonotic diseases. The CDC says Covid-19 has been confirmed in domestic pets, otters, mink on mink farms and wild white-tailed deer.
In the late 18th century, a French zoologist visiting South Africa documented a deadly local livestock disease known as bluetongue. Today, some 240 years later, the disease can be found virtually worldwide. In FERN's latest story, produced with Ensia, Carson Vaughan explores a new way of understanding emerging infectious diseases, showing how climate change and migration can cause pathogens to spread in new and virulent ways. (No paywall)
Two weeks after veterinarians confirmed Covid-19 in a tiger at the Bronx Zoo, the CDC and USDA said two cats in New York State were the first pets in the United States to be diagnosed with coronavirus infections. (No paywall)
The world's leading hog producer, China has culled nearly 40,000 hogs in its attempts to stop African swine fever since the disease, deadly for hogs but no threat to humans, was spotted on its farms last month. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said the disease will almost certainly emerge in other countries in Asia.
Late last year, federal authorities announced the presence of an exotic East Asian tick species on a New Jersey sheep farm. The state’s Department of Agriculture has now confirmed that Haemophysalis longicornis — also known as the longhorned tick — has successfully overwintered and possibly has become established in the state. No paywall
For the first time since 1929, a version of the virus that causes foot-and-mouth disease, a highly infectious livestock disease, will be allowed on the U.S. mainland, said the USDA on Thursday.
Four years after it issued a regulation on animal disease traceability, the USDA will hold seven regional meetings across the country to see how it's working and to discuss "potential next steps." The regulation put states and tribes in charge of developing trace-back systems and ended years of opposition to proposals for a federal database of livestock movement and ownership.
After tests suggested bird flu in a poultry flock in northern Alabama, the poultry breeding company Aviagen culled the flock and removed from its production line eggs that originated from the farm, says Reuters. The flock was one of three potential outbreaks of bird flu and followed discoveries across the state line in Tennessee a week earlier.
Antibiotics play a crucial role in treating disease in farm animals and plants, said the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in releasing an "action plan" to promote prudent use of antimicrobials. "Their use is essential to food security, to our well-being and to animal welfare," said the FAO, but the emergence of bacteria resistant to antibiotics is a threat to human health.
"It will be nearly another decade" before the mammoth National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility in Kansas goes into operation, says Drovers CattleNetwork, reporting on a presentation at a veterinarians' conference.
The FDA program to phase out use of antibiotics as a growth promotant in food animals "may allow some injudicious uses to persist," says the Pew Trusts' Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming.