Texas A Step Closer to Livestock Emergency Preparedness
Texas Animal Health Commission
Box l2966 *Austin, Texas 78711 *(800) 550-8242* FAX (512) 719-0719
Linda Logan, DVM, PhD* Executive Director
For info, contact Carla Everett, information officer, at 1-800-550-8242,
ext. 710, or firstname.lastname@example.org
For Immediate Release--Jan. 7, 2002
With the new year, Texas animal health officials have been equipped with
emergency authority to fight a foreign animal disease outbreak. New
emergency response and management regulations for the Texas Animal Health
Commission, (TAHC), the state's livestock health regulatory authority,
became effective January 1.
"We must be ready for action if a foreign animal disease is accidentally or
intentionally introduced into Texas," said Dr. Linda Logan, Texas state
veterinarian and TAHC executive director. "New emergency response
regulations will streamline our ability to immediately declare livestock
movement restrictions statewide, if needed, establish quarantines and start
fighting a foreign animal disease without waiting for the 12 TAHC
commissioners to convene a meeting. Any delays in action to stop disease
spread could be costly for Texas livestock producers."
Dr. Logan explained that the new regulations do not exclude the 12
governor-appointed TAHC commissioners, but allow her or designated deputies
to act immediately on their behalf to fight the spread of disease. In an
emergency, the commissioners would convene as quickly as possible in an
open meeting to address the disease outbreak.
"The TAHC commissioners will retain ultimate authority, and they will be
involved in deliberations with industry stakeholders to direct the agency
in responding to an emergency," commented Gene Snelson, TAHC general
counsel. "Furthermore, this new authority will be used only when a foreign
animal disease has been introduced into the state. While the TAHC always
has had broad-based legal authority to eradicate or control livestock
disease, the authority to be more direct in responding to such a livestock
emergency must be legislatively modified. These new regulations, however,
interim framework to ensure that we can address problems if they arise
prior to the next legislative session."
"In Great Britain's 2001 foot-and-mouth disease outbreak, authorities
determined the virus had been in their country for two or three weeks
before sick swine were seen at a slaughter plant in February 2001. In the
ensuing battle to contain infection, more than 6 million head of livestock
on 9,662 farms were slaughtered in Great Britain. The cost of the outbreak
will run well over $4 billion," said Dr. Logan.
"Foot-and-mouth disease is the most destructive and costly livestock
disease, because it can infect all animals with split hooves, including
cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and llamas. Free-ranging animals, such as
white-tailed deer and feral swine also are susceptible. Foot-and-mouth
disease maims animals, leaving them lame, blistered and unable to eat or
drink. To stop the outbreak, infected and exposed animals must be
slaughtered and properly disposed of, either by burning or deep burial.
Foot-and-mouth disease is particularly difficult to battle because the
virus can travel not only via live animals, but also on the wind, on
clothing and footwear, on contaminated vehicles and equipment, in uncooked
and undercooked meat products, and in manure," she said.
"If the disease was introduced into Texas, and we halted livestock movement
immediately, we have a chance at stopping the spread of the disease. Until
now, commissioners had to hold an emergency meeting in order to enact
widespread livestock movement restrictions," she said. The emergency
response regulations also authorize the slaughter and disposal of infected
and exposed animals, and provide for the TAHC to assist owners with
obtaining any indemnity funds available from the state or federal
In a foreign animal disease outbreak, Dr. Logan explained that the Texas
Emergency Response Team will lead the initial charge. This special-duty
team, she said, is comprised of the TAHC and Texas-based staff from the
U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection
Services, Veterinary Services (USDA-APHIS-VS). Early this spring, the
TAHC gained additional support when it joined the 31-member State
Emergency Management Council. Under a governor's disaster declaration, the
TAHC can access the equipment, manpower and expertise of member agencies,
including the Department of Public Safety, National Guard, or Texas
Department of Highways. Twenty-one member agencies participated in a mock
foot-and-mouth disease exercise in late June in College Station to hone
teamwork and responsiveness.
"We were particularly pleased to have the participation of livestock
industry groups and TAHC commissioners in this simulated outbreak
exercise," commented Dr. Logan.
"Thanks to USDA funding, six TAHC veterinarians and several private
veterinary practitioners in Texas also spent month-long stints in Great
Britain during the outbreak to learn how firsthand to fight this disease,"
said Dr. Logan, who noted that foot-and-mouth disease has been eradicated
in the U.S. since l929.
"Great Britain had been free of foot-and-mouth disease since 1967, and it's
thought that this year's outbreak was started when hogs in the nothern part
of the country were fed illegally imported meat that was contaminated with
foot and mouth disease virus. To prevent this potential mode of
transmission in Texas, the state legislature this year outlawed the feeding
of any meat scraps to pigs," she said.
"Regulations, laws and extra manpower and equipment are helpful in an
outbreak, but they will never take the place of our first line of defense:
the livestock owner and private veterinary practitioner. Keeping a sharp
eye on livestock and promptly reporting any unusual signs of disease could
save billions of dollars in the long run," said Dr. Logan. "Our hotline,
operated cooperatively by the USDA and TAHC is available 24 hours a day. A
foreign animal disease diagnostician is always on call and can be reached
by calling the toll-free number,1-800-550-8242. There is no charge by the
USDA or TAHC for conducting a foreign animal disease investigation."