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June 09, 2008   Email to Friend 

Christy Rhodes Kirk
(334) 240-7103
June 09, 2008

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Commissioner Ron Sparks has announced that the Agriculture Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness Section of the Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries will host a "full-scale exercise" on foreign animal disease June 17, 9 a.m., at the State Fairgrounds on Federal Drive.

According to Sparks, the purpose of the exercise is to provide participants with an opportunity to evaluate current response concepts, plans and capabilities for a response to a foreign animal disease outbreak in Alabama. The exercise will focus on local emergency responder command and control coordination, critical decisions, notifications and integration of state and federal assets necessary to save personal property, private industry, the economy and to protect public health and security.

Numerous federal, state and local agencies, as well as many stakeholder groups, have been designing the exercise over the past three months as a follow-up to an October 2007 tabletop exercise which brought most of the same stakeholders and agencies together.

A "foreign animal disease" is defined as an important transmissible disease of livestock or poultry believed to be absent from the United States. Foreign animal diseases are considered a threat to the United States when they significantly affect human health, or when there is appreciable cost associated with control or eradication of disease in livestock. In addition to disease control costs, the most immediate consequence of an FAD in the United States is the loss of export markets.

This particular exercise will focus on the state's response to Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD). FMD is a severe, highly contagious disease of cattle, pigs, sheep, goats and deer. Humans are not affected by FMD but can carry the disease on their clothing and infect other animals.

The 2001 FMD outbreak in the United Kingdom is estimated to have cost the U.K. $20 billion despite its cattle market being 10 times smaller than that of the United States. The economic impact of FMD, as well as the fact that it is a highly contagious disease, makes the preparations to respond to FMD a main concern for the State of Alabama and the United States. For more information regarding this exercise, contact Dr. Brad Fields or his staff in the Homeland Security section at (334) 240-7278.

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