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September 13, 2007   Email to Friend 

Jeff Helms
(334) 613-4212
September 13, 2007

Alabama agricultural leaders discuss response strategies for an animal disease outbreak during the training exercise. From left are Reid Blossom with Alabama Cattlemen's Association, Dr. Lisa Kriese-Anderson, associate professor of animal science at Auburn University and Dr. Terry Slaten, associate state veterinarian.
MONTGOMERY, Ala., Sept. 13 -- A day after British officials confirmed a new case of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in England, state and federal agencies, along with livestock industry leaders, met in Montgomery, Ala., to coordinate response in the event of an FMD outbreak in Alabama.

Alabama Farmers Federation Beef and Dairy Director Perry Mobley said the event was planned long before the first case of FMD was announced in England. However, recent news highlighted the need for the state to have a realistic emergency response plan.

"The greatest benefit of a practice scenario like the one we participated in today is the interagency collaboration," Mobley said. "Heaven forbid we ever have the real situation in Alabama, but we can't stick our heads in the sand and say it won't ever happen in the United States.

"With global commerce and the growing ease and frequency of worldwide travel, there is much greater opportunity for foreign animal diseases to spread," he added. "Today's exercise provided an opportunity for different agencies and industry representatives to come together and act out a plausible scenario and response."

About 75 people attended the Animal Foreign Disease Tabletop Exercise at the Alabama Cattlemen's Association building. The meeting was conducted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Department of Homeland Security. It included representatives from the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Alabama Department of Public Health, Alabama Emergency Management Agency, Alabama Department of Transportation, Auburn University, Alabama Farmers Federation, Alabama Cattlemen's Association, Alabama Department of Environmental Management, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

The scenario focused on an outbreak that began when a recent traveler to Africa accidentally introduced the disease to livestock at a fair in east Alabama. From there, the disease quickly spread to other locations in the state.

Agency and industry representatives participating in the day-long exercise were divided into groups and tasked with developing action plans for various aspects of the response scenario. Breakout groups discussed: response by statutory and regulatory authorities, public information, economic impact, biosecurity, monitoring and surveillance.

Mobley said the state veterinarian and other agencies already have response plans in place for a foreign animal disease outbreak, and key leaders from different agencies have agreed to hold future meetings where they will expand and refine Alabama's response procedures.

"Most importantly, this exercise began a dialogue among agencies and industry leaders, so that if we ever have to face a situation like this, we will be willing and able to communicate," Mobley said.

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