Partnership formed to respond to animal health emergencies in Michigan

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The Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Michigan Department of Agriculture, and Michigan VMA have come together to form the Michigan Emergency Veterinary Network, or Vet Net, as part of Michigan's homeland security efforts in the animal health and protection arena.

Other Vet Net partners are the Michigan Department of Community Health, MSU Extension, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and private practitioners across the state.

Michigan's Vet Net is a comprehensive education and training program geared toward the state's nearly 3,600 licensed veterinarians. The program is aimed at improving awareness, preparedness, and response to animal disease-related emergencies.

One of the first programs of its kind in the nation, Vet Net is made possible by federal homeland security dollars and funding from the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine.

The program will include two main components—a general education series for the state's veterinarians and an in-depth emergency preparedness training program for those who sign up to serve in the volunteer corps.

This volunteer corps will be a group of private veterinary practitioners from across Michigan trained to identify and handle a variety of animal diseases. They will supplement state and federal veterinarian/agency efforts, and further ensure the health and safety of the state's livestock and domestic animals.

"Practitioners are often the first to see animals with unusual symptoms and are the ones more likely to talk with the farmers or producers or pet owners," said Dr. Lonnie King, dean of the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine. "We need to make sure the veterinarians in the field are prepared to deal with emergency disease situations."

Dr. Daniel Grooms is an MSU associate professor of large animal clinical sciences who is heading up the veterinary college's role in the project.

According to Dan Wyant, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture, the case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in Washington helped showcase the tremendous value this program could have in Michigan.

"In addition to complementing the state's existing food and agriculture security efforts, with Vet Net, Michigan will have a built-in support network that will be critical for rapidly distributing information during an animal health emergency like BSE, as well as having a team of trained frontline responders who could assist in surveillance and response efforts," Wyant said.

Dr. Judy W. Violante of the Michigan VMA said, "Success in addressing disease outbreaks is markedly enhanced by early disease detection and a swift, appropriate response. ... "

Vet Net will be implemented in three phases. The first will focus on the development and distribution of a resource binder and emergency contact information for veterinarians licensed in Michigan. Fact sheets on biosecurity, foreign animal diseases, bioterrorism agents, and emerging, infectious diseases of concern in Michigan and the United States will be distributed quarterly for the binders.

The fact sheets will cover information on all diseases in category A of the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's list of possible bioterrorism agents, and all diseases on the USDA's High Consequence Livestock Pathogens and Toxins list.

Phase II of the program entails specialized training for Michigan veterinarians. The first training session, to be held this spring, will focus on the incident command system and biosecurity practices. Veterinarians who complete this initial training session will become certified members of the Vet Net corps and will be considered "on call" in case of an animal health emergency in their local or regional communities.

Phase III of Vet Net provides ongoing training opportunities for Michigan veterinarians on foreign animal diseases, emerging infectious diseases, bioterrorism agents, and emergency response. These training sessions will help the Vet Net corps maintain a high level of preparedness.

Michigan veterinarians who wish to register for the Vet Net training program can contact the MDA Animal Industry Division at (517) 373-1077. For more information about Vet Net, visit