November 2017
From the State Vet's Office

Odds and Ends

West Nile and Eastern Equine Encephalitis Viruses

It was certainly a wet summer in Alabama. For the most part, that is a good thing. We are all thankful we did not see a repeat of the drought we had during 2016. I once heard a Texas rancher say a flood is a huge problem, but a drought will put you out of business. So we are happy there was plenty of rain this summer; however, there are a few negatives that come with a wet summer.

One of those problems is plenty of mosquitoes. Mosquitoes, fire ants, armadillos, fleas and ticks are a few members of the animal kingdom of which I cannot think of any good they do for society. Along with a large mosquito population comes an increase in the risk of mosquito-borne diseases such as West Nile and Eastern equine encephalitis viruses.

Both viruses were diagnosed in Alabama this past summer. A horse from Georgia arrived at Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine and tested positive for EEE. There were several horses in Alabama that tested positive for WNV. Some died, some recovered and some were euthanized.

Of the two viruses, EEE is by far the more dangerous. While humans are susceptible to the both viruses, they cannot catch the disease from a horse. However, if a horse in the area is positive, it should be of concern that the virus is in the area.

For us humans, about the best thing we can do is try to prevent mosquito bites. For horses, there are very effective vaccines to protect them from these viruses.

I realize, by the time you read this article, mosquito season will be about over. I just want to emphasize the need to vaccinate your horses every year.

Sometime over the next few weeks and definitely before next spring, please get with your local veterinarian and discuss an effective vaccination schedule. Then, if we have another wet spring or summer next year, your horses catching WNV or EEE will be one less thing you will have to worry about.

 

Helping During the Hurricane

Alabama mostly got through hurricane season without a tremendous amount of damage, although some spin-off tornadoes did some damage and destroyed some poultry houses. But our neighbors to the south in Florida, and to a lesser extent our neighbors in Georgia, were dealt a worse hand. It is tough to hear the people who are evacuating those states talk about not knowing what they will be going back to when the wind stops blowing. So many people want to do something, but do not know what to do. I am very thankful to report to you that the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries was able to play some part in reaching out to our neighbors at or close to the eye of the hurricane.

Ben Mullins, who is in charge of emergency programs here at the department, coordinated efforts to offer sheltering for horses and pets being evacuated from Florida and Georgia. The main equine shelter was at the Garrett Coliseum in Montgomery. We were able to coordinate bringing in feed and hay as well as contributing some to helping horse owners be more comfortable while they stayed with their horses.

In addition to offering housing to horses fleeing the hurricane, I waived the requirement for health certificates for that brief period of time so horse owners could cross the state line without having to go by their veterinarian and acquire a health certificate.

For several years, the ADAI has developed, exercised and refined our emergency plans for animal agriculture in our state. When the state of Alabama opens its Emergency Operations Center at Clanton, we have a seat at the table for agriculture, officially known as Essential Support Function 11. When we can help our neighbors, I am glad we can lend support. When we are in the path of the hurricane, we have a plan in place to deal with the hurricane the best we can.

 

Animal Disease Traceability

I just returned for a meeting to support the continued development of the National Animal Disease Traceability program we have been working toward over the past few years. It is easy to become complacent as long as we do not have an outbreak of a foreign animal disease or some disease we only deal with at some low level such as tuberculosis or brucellosis. But just like the time to prepare for a hurricane is while the sun is shining, the time to prepare for an animal disease outbreak is before it happens.

First, I would like for all of you who are aware of the animal disease traceability regulations in place both at the state and national level to raise your hand. Wow, that is a fairly small number! Okay, over the next couple of years we are going to make a very concerted effort to educate producers about the program. We will make every effort to not only be sure producers are aware of what our laws and regulations require but also why those regulations exist.

Many of you may not be aware that simply having a traceability program in place makes our export partners more likely to buy from us. An example of this is that while Japan stopped buying beef from the United States after our first bovine spongiform encephalopathy case, they continued to buy beef from Canada, despite multiple cases of BSE, because they had an active disease traceability program.

 

Stay tuned for a lot more information to come out about disease traceability over the coming weeks and months. We will define what the role of the government and the role of industry are, and how we will implement this.

 

Dr. Tony Frazier is the State Veterinarian for Alabama. You can contact him at 334-240-7253.