The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) today urged congressional lawmakers and the Obama administration to prioritize the management of a foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak.
“Improving preparedness for an FMD outbreak through development of an adequate vaccine bank must be a priority,” testified NPPC immediate past president Dr. Howard Hill, a veterinarian and pork producer from Cambridge, Iowa, before a subcommittee of the House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture.
FMD is a foreign animal disease, endemic in Africa, Asia, South America and the Middle East, and can affect all cloven-hoofed animals, including pigs, cattle and sheep. The entire continent of North America is currently free of the disease. While it rarely infects humans and isn’t a food safety issue, a North American outbreak could negatively affect meat exports and domestic meat sales.
The U.S. pork industry has been working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on a “Secure Pork Supply” plan. The plan intends to enhance coordination and communication among producers and federal, state and local government officials, support continuity of operations for producers, and accelerate disease response.
A major part of the plans disease response includes an increase in vaccination for susceptible animals, but the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) currently doesn’t have enough vaccine, or the ability to obtain it.
NPPC has called for an improvement to the vaccine bank by contracting with an offshore, vendor-maintained vaccine antigen bank that would have available antigen concentrate to protect against all 23 of the most common FMD types currently circulating in the world. Maintaining a vendor-managed inventory of 10 million doses of vaccine, which is the estimated need for the first two weeks of an outbreak, is also important, as well as contracting with an international manufacturer, or manufacturers, for the surge capacity to produce at least 40 million doses.
U.S. law prohibits live FMD virus from being on the U.S. mainland, so APHIS contracts with foreign vaccine production companies to produce finished vaccine from the antigen stored at Plum Island Animal Disease Center, off the coast of Long Island, N.Y. But only a limited number of FMD strains are covered by the antigen stored at Plum Island, and under current production contracts, only 2.5 million doses of vaccine could be produced within three weeks of an outbreak.