Virginia Laboratory Gets New Tool in Protecting State’s Animals from Catastrophic Disease

cows nixonThe Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) Regional Animal Health Laboratory in Harrisonburg recently was certified to perform screening testing for the Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) virus in animals. Because of this new capability, the lab, which is part of a network operated by VDACS, will perform a valuable early warning function for the detection of Foreign Animal Diseases, including FMD.

VDACS sought this approval from the National Animal Health Laboratory Network to enhance its rapid response ability. The approval is difficult to obtain and requires proof of the laboratory’s testing capability, the ability of employees to run such tests and a commitment to early detection of foreign animal diseases. Dr. Charles Broaddus, State Veterinarian, says he is proud of the staff in Harrisonburg whose knowledge and skill made the certification possible. “Our enhanced ability to detect foreign animal disease quickly will allow us to take measures earlier in our efforts to contain such a disease before it can spread and, therefore, protect this vital segment of agriculture.”

Technicians can now screen samples sent in from livestock veterinarians for FMD in Harrisonburg using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing. The capability to perform this testing will allow for a much more rapid response, enhanced surveillance and decision making if a detection of FMD occurred in Virginia.

FMD is the one of the most contagious animal diseases in the world, and has severe implications for cattle, sheep, goats and pigs.  The U.S. has been free of FMD since 1929, but it exists in many other parts of the world.  It can spread easily through contact with infected animals and contaminated farming equipment, vehicles, clothing and feed.  As its name suggests, FMD causes painful blisters around the feet and mouths of affected animals.

FMD is not a public health or food safety threat, but it is of worldwide concern as it can spread quickly and cause significant economic losses. Early detection is key in controlling the spread and containing the disease.

Conformation of results would still need to come from the National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, IA, but a head start in a suspect case could make a huge difference in the effectiveness of Virginia’s response.

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