Annette Hacker, director,
Office: (515) 294-4777
James Roth, Center for Food Security and Public Health,
Teddi Barron, News Service, (515) 294-4778
Nation vulnerable to foreign animal disease, says ISU vet medicine professor at U.S. Senate agroterrorism hearing
AMES, Iowa --The United States is highly vulnerable to the accidental or intentional introduction of foreign or emerging animal diseases, said Dr. James Roth in testimony presented today (July 20) at the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. The committee held a hearing to review biosecurity preparedness and efforts to address agroterrorism.
Roth is Clarence Hartley Covault Distinguished Professor in Veterinary Medicine and director of the Center for Food Security and Public Health at Iowa State University.
Although progress has been made, Roth said, the U.S. continues to have an inadequate infrastructure to prevent, detect, respond or recover from an outbreak of a foreign animal or zoonotic disease. A zoonotic disease infects both animals and people.
"Agents against animals have been considered a component of nearly every nation-sponsored offensive biowarfare program," Roth said. "In recent years, there have been numerous examples in other countries of accidental introductions of foreign animal diseases and zoonotic diseases with devastating consequences."
Many foreign animal diseases also can infect people, Roth said, including three leading threats -- avian influenza, Rift Valley fever and Nipah virus.
Roth recommended the Senate target three urgent priorities to strengthen the country's ability to protect public health, animal health and agriculture from disease threats. These priorities are rapid development of vaccines and antivirals for high priority diseases, enhancing physical facilities for animal health research and disease diagnosis, and increasing human resources in veterinary medicine and public.
Roth specifically urged the Senate to shift a portion of Project Bioshield's $5.6 billion budget for human vaccines to the development of vaccines for zoonotic diseases in animals. He also recommended that steps be taken immediately to replace inadequate facilities at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center in New York. Roth endorsed the Veterinary Medical Workforce Expansion Act, which allocates a major investment for veterinary medicine colleges to address the shortage in food animal and public health veterinarians. He also called for funding of the National Veterinary Medical Services Act, which will provide loan repayment for veterinary students who agree to work in underserved rural areas.
Iowa State's Center for Food Security and Public Health strives to increase national preparedness for accidental or intentional introduction of disease agents that threaten food security or public health.
Roth's complete testimony is available online.