AU DEVELOPING COMPUTER DISC FOR USDA TO FIGHT BIOTERRORISM
Auburn University is developing a computer disk for the United States Department of Agriculture to aid veterinarians and other agricultural first responders who encounter a livestock disease outbreak.
Animal disease epidemics in foreign countries and the threat of bioterrorism have made the project a priority, said Tim Moore, director of research development for the College of Veterinary Medicine. A draft of the disk, entitled "Food Security: The Threat to American Livestock," is under review by the USDA.
"It is designed for USDA veterinarians and state and local first responders, such as the police and firefighters," Moore said, "as well as people involved in agriculture, including veterinarians, farmers and county extension agents."
Initial distribution is planned for this fall with disks being sent to USDA officials across the country and other federal agencies. It is the first in a planned series of resource CDs under the heading: Agricultural First Responders Reference and Actions Steps Resource Guide.
"The USDA's reviewers in Washington are excited about the disk and say it will be an effective tool for national security against agricultural terrorism," said Dr. Timothy Boosinger, AU veterinary dean. "Time is critical when trying to stop a disease that has possibly spread over an area, especially diseases that are new to the U.S. or have not occurred in many years."
The disk, under development with the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service since 2000, contains extensive information about foreign animal diseases, including photographs and video that can be viewed on a laptop computer on location. "If a veterinarian comes across something unfamiliar or suspicious, he can immediately research it with this disk," Dr. Boosinger said. "Many of the diseases listed have never been seen in the United States."
Contact information for all federal and state veterinarians is also available, as well as forms that can be filled out electronically and emailed or faxed to the USDA, giving the agency immediate data.
Another valuable feature is a variety of Powerpoint briefings. "Anyone can use the disk to give a detailed briefing on current disease threats," Moore added. "It's a great educational tool for anyone wanting to update colleagues or for use by law enforcement."
He says the disk's material has been available previously in numerous books and journals, but this is the first time it has been gathered into one location. Tom Lenard of Auburn University's Media Production Group took the information provided by Moore and USDA officials and assembled it into the interactive computer program.
"It's a very thorough program," Lenard said. "In addition to the disk's foreign animal disease information, we included web links for direct access to many federal and state agencies. This can be done from a desktop computer as well as in the field with a laptop computer and wireless modem."
Moore, adding that the project took on new meaning after September 11, 2001, said, "In light of those horrifying events, Auburn is proud to be involved with USDA-APHIS in a project of