A full docket of presentations on the latest information in antimicrobials, zoonotic disease preparedness, and diagnostic procedures comprised the 2008 joint scientific session of the U.S. Animal Health Association and the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians. The conference was held Oct. 23-29 in Greensboro, N.C.
The joint session covered multiple facets of foot-and-mouth disease preparedness, including consumer awareness, according to newly elected AAVLD President David Steffen. The latest research on vaccination technologies and molecular epidemiologic techniques were presented along with overviews of U.S. laboratory and emergency management response planning and descriptions of control strategies used in South America.
The opening AAVLD session was titled "One Health" and included a presentation by staff at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the encephalopathy of swine slaughterhouse workers. They also gave presentations on antimicrobial resistance and appropriate interpretation and use of laboratory data when selecting antimicrobials. Speakers identified gaps in knowledge and challenged the scientists to continue work in this important area, Dr. Steffen said. Information on antimicrobial resistance was also presented at the AAVLD/USAHA food safety symposium, held during the joint meeting.
A special session was devoted to review of the current data on sensitivity of various testing and sampling techniques used for identifying and controlling Tritrichomonas in cattle. Two days of concurrent scientific and poster sessions covered a broad range of contemporary diagnostic topics.
Four joint USAHA and AAVLD committees met at the conference, including the Committee on Animal Emergency Management. It called for a handful of government and industry agencies to each request $5 million within the President's 2011 budget to fund an initiative to engage state animal health agencies to work cooperatively to establish or expand regional animal health emergency management planning groups. Such an effort would provide the capability to quickly regionalize or compartmentalize the nation against introduction of a highly transmissible and contagious foreign animal disease.
The committee also requested that government and industry work with the AVMA and livestock species groups to revise guidelines and methodologies for large-scale euthanasia or depopulation of animals, and identify practices that pose the least risk to humans and other animals. The information would then be incorporated into the National Animal Health Emergency Management System's Operational Guidelines for Euthanasia as well as into the AVMA Guidelines on Euthanasia.
The joint Committee on Aquaculture wants related agencies to request initial funding of $2 million for a pilot Aquatic Animal Health Laboratory Network in fiscal year 2009. The committee reports it would be used for the detection of aquaculture disease outbreaks as well as disease surveillance.
Meanwhile, 32 USAHA committees met and issued recommendations at the conference.
Four committees collectively called for the establishment of a bluetongue and epizootic hemorrhagic disease surveillance program throughout the U.S. and Caribbean. They were the Committee on Bluetongue and Related Orbiviruses; Committee on Infectious Diseases of Cattle, Bison, and Camelids; Committee on Foreign and Emerging Diseases; and Committee on Sheep and Goats.
The Committee on Diagnostic Laboratory and Veterinary Workforce Development made a number of recommendations regarding funding for federal programs. Two of the requests asked that Congress fully pay the $5 million for the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program included in the Agriculture Appropriations bill and that the administration budget $20 million for the National Veterinary Medical Service Act. The USAHA suggests the first phase of NVMSA's implementation should prioritize shortages of large animal and mixed animal practitioners in rural communities and training of veterinary diagnostic laboratory personnel because of national security concerns for public health, bioterrorism preparedness, and food supply security.
Regarding the School of Veterinary Medicine Competitive Grant Program and the Agricultural Biosecurity Grant Program, the committee requested the Department of Agriculture to develop regulations and implementation plans for the programs, in addition to asking the government to fund them.
As for awards, Dr. John C. Shook (UP '48) of Annville, Pa., was presented with the Medal of Distinction, the highest honor of the USAHA. Dr. Shook worked in private practice as well as served in various positions with the Pennsylvania and Maryland departments of agriculture, where he was the state veterinarian for each state. Dr. Shook also held many top positions with the USAHA.
Dr. Willie Reed (TUS '78) of West Lafayette, Ind., dean of the Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine, received the E.P. Pope Memorial Award, the highest honor of the AAVLD. The award is given for contributions in enhancing the visibility of veterinary diagnostic laboratory medicine. Dr. Reed is a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Pathologists and the American College of Poultry Veterinarians.
Dr. Claude Barton (AUB '52) of Nashville, Tenn., received the USDA Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service Administrator's Award. Dr. Barton is retired from the agency, formerly serving as the national brucellosis program director. He also held many top positions with the USAHA.
Dr. Herbert Leon Thacker (PUR '65) of Lafayette, Ind., professor of veterinary pathology and former director of the Indiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, received the Distinguished Service Award from the AAVLD for his many years of service to the association and the field of veterinary diagnostic medicine. Dr. Thacker served 23 years as director of the laboratory before stepping down in August 2008.
The 2008-2009 USAHA officers are Drs. Donald E. Hoenig, Maine state veterinarian, president; Richard Breitmeyer, California Department of Food and Agriculture, president-elect; Steven Halstead, Michigan Department of Agriculture, 1st vice president; David Marshall, North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, 2nd vice president; David Meeker, National Renderers Association, 3rd vice president; and William Hartmann, Minnesota Board of Animal Health, treasurer.
The 2008-2009 AAVLD officers are Drs. Dave Steffen, Lincoln, Neb., president; Gary Anderson, Manhattan, Kan., president-elect; Craig Carter, Lexington, Ken., vice president; Grant Maxie, Guelph, Ontario, Canada, immediate past president; Sharon Hietala, Davis, Calif., secretary/treasurer.