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Agricultural News

NPPC Chief Vet Liz Wagstrom Says Threat of Foreign Animal Disease Entering the US is "Very Real"

Wed, 28 Nov 2018 11:53:47 CST

NPPC Chief Vet Liz Wagstrom Says Threat of Foreign Animal Disease Entering the US is As African Swine Fever becomes increasingly more concerning for the US and global pork industry, with the recent outbreak that has nearly fully saturated China’s pork infrastructure, Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Associate Farm Director Carson Horn sat down with Dr. Liz Wagstrom, chief veterinarian for the National Pork Producers Council, to talk about the seriousness of the threat this disease poses to the US pork industry. Listen to their complete conversation by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below at the bottom of the page.

According to Wagstrom, the first reported outbreak of ASF in China occurred sometime around the first of August and has since spread to nearly every province of the Asian country. She says the disease has slowly worked its way across Europe with cases showing up sporadically over the last decade.

“The concern we have as it’s gotten into China, is that we get a lot of ingredients and supplies with a lot of international travel back and forth from China,” Wagstrom said. “So, we’re working really hard just to try to keep it out of the United States. We’ve never had it and we really want to keep it that way.”

Citing the investigations that veterinarian researchers on the ground in China have conducted, the contagion was probably in the country a couple weeks before it was actually identified. The fact that it went that long without being notified gave the disease ample opportunity to spread rapidly given the extensive movement of livestock there. Wagstrom says the disease has been traced back to its source at a packing facility where patient zero likely exposed thousands of hogs to the disease. She suspects China’s common practice of “swill feeding” and its culture of selling off sick animals as soon as they are identified, probably did not help the situation.

“There is a lot of things they’re doing over there that could have contributed to its spread,” she remarked. “So, we’re working very closely with both the USDA and customs and border protection. They’re targeting flights coming from ASF positive countries for illegal meat or citrus products as well as manifest cargos. We’re also working with USDA to try to make sure that we could identify cases early - that we would have a surveillance program.

“The feed and pork industries are working closely together as well to try to (monitor) feed ingredients coming from China that could potentially be contaminated.”

Wagstrom says the likelihood of hogs being exposed to the disease by foodborne means is unlikely, but the NPPC still is encouraging producers to work with their feed suppliers to discuss a holding period for feed ingredients originating from China, in order to deactivate the disease should it have in fact contaminated any feed.

The NPPC has joined with other livestock industry groups this past year, strongly advocating in Washington, that appropriations for a Foot & Mouth Disease vaccine bank be included in the next Farm Bill. While no vaccine exists for ASF, this situation has demonstrated the level of risk that an FMD outbreak poses. Wagstrom says the NPPC has used this situation to reiterate the importance of getting that funding while negotiations are still being conducted on the Farm Bill. Essentially, this moment has underscored that the threat of a foreign animal disease outbreak - is very real.

“There really is a threat - most of Asia is positive for Foot & Mouth, we have it in Russia,” she said. “We have a lot of global movement of people and products these days… so, we’ve probably got right now more positive countries for FMD then we ever have in history.”



Listen to Horn's complete conversation with Wagstrom regarding the threat of foreign animal disease.
right-click to download mp3


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