The recent porcine epidemic diarrhea virus disease outbreak is a hot topic at the World Pork Expo. It is a foreign animal disease. It had never surfaced in the United States before. Fortunately, it causes no threat to human health. Well-prepared, rapidly presented scientific information on the disease avoided a major market disruption.
In short, we got lucky.
Other foreign animal diseases exist that are more serious threats. Four that could cause havoc are: Foot and mouth disease, Classical swine fever (cholera), African swine fever and Swine vesicular disease.
Two of the first steps to control such diseases, should they surface, are stopping all movement of livestock and euthanizing infected animals. Those steps sound easy. However, roughly a million hogs are on trucks every day. About half are moving from one stage of production to another. The other half are going to slaughter plants. At least 200,000 cattle are on trucks every day. About 125,000 are going to packing plants. Approaching 100,000 are bound for feedlots. The point-the U.S. livestock sector cannot have a movement stoppage for long.
States regulate interstate commerce. States closing borders could result in thousands of cattle and hogs sitting on semis at state borders. One need not stretch one's imagination far to envision a bad situation rapidly getting a lot worse.
That's only a piece of the background behind efforts to develop a quick response program to create a secure U.S. pork supply and provide business continuity for the pork industry in event of a foreign animal disease outbreak here. James Roth, an Iowa State University veterinarian, explained goals of the project at the World Pork Expo in Des Moines, Iowa. The effort is being funded by USDA and livestock industry groups.
Potential impacts are huge. As we learned with the BSE outbreak in 2003, meat exports dried up overnight. Coordinated recovery efforts took about eight years to return exports to pre BSE levels.