Foreign animal disease awareness course
held at college


Drs. Michael Dark, Kendra Stauffer and Lisa Farina are shown prior to a necropsy lab they conducted as part of the foreign animal disease course.

Drs. Michael Dark, Kendra Stauffer and Lisa Farina are shown prior to a necropsy lab they conducted as part of the foreign animal disease course. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Kendra Stauffer)

By Sarah Carey

When a deadly foreign animal disease such as foot and mouth virus strikes, the impacts can be far-reaching and costly. But the longer the period of time between initial detection and action to control the disease, the more devastating the effects become, according to a study of a hypothetical outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease virus in California dairy cows.

The study, by researchers from the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California/Davis, appeared in the January 2011 issue of the Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation, and used epidemic simulation and economic optimization models. Among its conclusions:

“The median economic impact of an FMD outbreak in California was estimated to result in national agriculture welfare losses of $2.3–$69 billion as detection delay increased from seven to 22 days, respectively,” the study stated. “If assuming a detection delay of 21 days, it was estimated that, for every additional hour of delay, the impact would be an additional approximately 2,000 animals slaughtered and an additional economic loss of $565 million. These findings underline the critical importance that the United States has an effective early detection system in place before an introduction of FMDV if it hopes to avoid dramatic losses to both livestock and the economy.”

Dr. Michael Dark, an assistant professor of pathology at the UF College of Veterinary Medicine, said that for him, the article emphasized the importance of specialized training for veterinary practitioners and others who might encounter such diseases in animals they are working with.

“It’s one thing to say you know this is a bad disease, but when you see the numbers in that study, it really drives home how important it is,” Dark said.

From June 10-13, for the first time ever, the UF veterinary college hosted a foreign animal and emerging diseases awareness course, implemented with key assistance from Dark and coordination/oversight by Dr. Kendra Stauffer, (’99) area emergency coordinator for veterinary services with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Multiple stakeholders involved with agriculture in Florida participated, and the course coincided with the video teleconferencing of the Foreign Animal Disease Course at Plum Island. Eighty-two people showed up for the event, including many stakeholders representing the agricultural industry.

“Approximately 30 private practitioners attended, including practice owners, Army reservists and retired veterinarians,”  Stauffer said.

PPE drill.

Dr. Joe Barbosa and Dr. Richard Austin as they come back off of the “farm” with their samples, doffing their protective and personal equipment in the drill. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Kendra Stauffer)

In addition, others from the college, the state’s Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services and the College of Public Health and Health Professions participated in various aspects of the course.

Plum Island in New York is the one place in the country authorized to conduct research on foreign animal diseases, and anyone who wants training in diagnosing and managing those diseases must receive initial training there. Each time a training session is conducted at Plum Island, it is video teleconferenced to a single location, and this time it was Florida’s turn to be contacted, event organizers said.

“There are about 15 veterinarians in the state that are trained as foreign animal disease diagnosticians,” Dark said. “If there’s a suspicion of a foreign animal disease, they go out and collect samples that are then sent to Plum Island for Confirmation. This course was primarily meant as a refresher course for them.”

During the four-day course, participants were able to participate in necropsies of chickens and calves that had died of natural causes, said Dark, who worked with Dr. Lisa Farina, a clinical assistant professor of pathology, on  the lab component. The labs enabled participants, who had viewed videotaped necropsies ahead of time, to see how a proper necropsy is conducted on each species and to see which tissue samples would be collected in a disease situation.

“Many of our participants had not done a full necropsy since veterinary school,” Dark said. “It was an opportunity for them to refresh their  anatomy skills.”

On the fourth day of the course, Dr. Fiona Maunsell, an assistant research professor at the college, organized a protective and personal equipment drill, the gist of which involves training participants how to suit up and remove gear and clothing without contaminating their vehicle or other equipment.

Overall, Dark and Stauffer said they felt the course was a success.

“What I was most impressed with was how many practitioners were interested and took the time to come,” Dark said. “It’s a pretty good chunk of time to be away from your practice. Hopefully this is never going to be practical for any of us, but it’s still all very important information.”

He said teaching the wet labs was “quite an experience.”

“I showed them a trick or two they hadn’t seen, and they showed me a trick or two I hadn’t seen,” Dark said.

Dr. John Yelvington, a large animal practitioner from Highlands County, said he enjoyed the course and was glad he attended.

“It was a very good review with a lot of new and interesting information,” he said. “With Florida being such a risk with all its coastline, it is very important for food animal veterinarians to be ever vigilant. The online lectures from Plum Island were a first for me and very informative. Hopefully, if a foreign animal disease is ever introduced here, we can sequester that area and not shut down the entire state.”




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Drs. Michael Dark, Kendra Stauffer and Lisa Farina are shown prior to a necropsy lab they conducted as part of the foreign animal disease course.

Foreign animal disease awareness course held at college

Agricultural stakeholders from all over the state convene at UF CVM for foreign animal disease course.

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