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Krista Darnell
Childress, Texas

FMD - Let's Think Ahead Before It's Too Late
Editorial by
Krista Darnell

I am not normally known for thinking ahead, but ever since I started reading up on the foot and mouth disease that's becoming epidemic, I'm getting that way. With outbreaks in South America, it's just a matter of time before it enters the US, and chances are high that it will gain it's first foothold in the Mexican border states, primarily Texas and California. Once it hits Mexico, the coyotes will quickly bring it across the Rio on their tires and on the feet of their passengers.

Apparently there is a vaccine for this disease, but no one will use it because vaccinated animals will test positive for FMD disease. The knee jerk response has been to simply slaughter all split hooved livestock on farms within X amount of miles of a confirmed infection, regardless of whether they're infected or not. With the Texas winds being what they are, I'd hedge my bets they'd up the ante to 50 miles around a confirmed case.

And why do they slaughter all the animals that do get vaccinated - Is there something in the vaccine that causes the meat to be bad? From everything I've read it is NOT a zoonotic disease - Humans do not catch it.

The only protection I can see is to use the vaccine that no one is willing to use. The logic against it is that by using it, although you protect your stock from the disease, your region will no longer enjoy a FMD free status and will be subject to having it's meat banned from export. Makes sense, but can't this be circumvented? As much as I hate letting the government regulate anything, why can't this be handled much in the same manner as rabies?

For example.

I have a herd that I know is free from the disease, and I want to vaccinate it before the threat becomes real. What if there were an agency that I could call to come out and test all of my animals. Once they're all tested negative, my herd is issued a FMD free status. THEN, I have all of my breeding stock vaccinated, and just like they do with rabies, I get a certificate stating that such and such animal was found free of the disease, and summarily vaccinated by a state approved agency. The animal receives a tattoo to corrospond with it's certificate (just like a rabies tag). That way my best animals are protected, and the state won't lose it's free status because it can show that the only reason my stock is testing positive is because it was vaccinated. Also, if a nearby herd became infected, I wouldn't be awaiting the arrival of the govt to exterminate my stock out of fear. Future breeding stock can simply be taken to the area vet for testing, vaccination and certification once the base herd has been certified FMD free.

Big fat pain in the tail, I realize, and I wouldn't go to the hassle with every little wether that cavorted across my pasture. But, you can bet I'd put up with the hassle for my breeding stock! The alternative is to sit around with my head in the sand and pretend nothing will ever go wrong, and then wake up one day and find out that every single goat I own is about to be destroyed because we just sat on our hands and pretended it would go away.

I'm aware I don't have all the facts about how this sort of thing is handled, but judging from the millions of healthy animals being slaughtered overseas in a futile attempt to control FMD, seems to me those of us in the US of A need to implement something to cover our collective assets before it's too late.

Editor's note:
Follow this link to the current (as of 2001/03/18) TAHC info on FMD
Texas Animal Health Commission FMD Links.

The TAHC main web site is at
http://www.tahc.state.tx.us








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