December 01, 2014


 Course helps veterinarians respond to foreign diseases

​Posted Nov. 19, 2014

Dr. William Stump had a chance to see poultry with exotic Newcastle disease five years before responding to an outbreak of the foreign animal disease.

He is one of hundreds of federal, state, military, and academic veterinarians who have traveled to Plum Island Animal Disease Center at Plum Island, New York, for training to become FAD diagnosticians. Veterinary Services within the Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has offered the course since 1971.

The two-week course involves working with animals infected for instructional purposes with organisms that cause foreign animal diseases, including foot-and-mouth disease and END.

Dr. Stump has been a veterinary medical officer with Veterinary Services for 23 years, almost entirely at his current duty station in Grand Island, Nebraska. In 1997, he participated in the training at Plum Island.

“They inoculate the animals before we show up, and then we watch the disease progress over a period of time, and then they’ll euthanize the animals on different days,” Dr. Stump said.

Course participants spend mornings attending lectures covering foreign animal diseases and spend afternoons in the laboratory observing animals with the most important diseases and conducting necropsies of the animals.

In the field, Dr. Stump said, veterinary medical officers do a lot of routine disease investigations. A practitioner will call an officer out to a farm or a clinic to look at an animal with an unusual problem. The officer looks for signs of a foreign disease and sends samples to a diagnostic laboratory.

“We don’t want to be hitting the panic button for an endemic disease that looks pretty obviously not (to be a) foreign animal disease, but at the same time, we still want to check it out,” Dr. Stump said. “The practitioners, I think they get reassured when we’re there that they can rely on us to make a good evaluation and then do what needs to be done.”

Dr. Stump was among the responders to the END outbreak in 2002 and 2003 in California and Nevada. He led depopulation teams and served as an operations chief.

“This is a really virulent disease. You could watch birds dying right before your eyes, it was so bad out there,” Dr. Stump said. “So the training at Plum was pretty valuable to just get you attuned to what to expect and how to react.”

Dr. Stump assists with FAD training at Plum Island and elsewhere. He said the current course at Plum Island has evolved to emphasize disease response as much as disease recognition.

”We never want to see foot-and-mouth in this country, but if it comes, we need to be ready because there won’t be any opportunity to stand around,” Dr. Stump said.


The Department of Agriculture’s National Animal Health Emergency Response Corps seeks to expand its roster of veterinary professionals who are willing to respond to outbreaks of foreign animal diseases and other disasters. Details are available here.