Veterinarians needed to develop comprehensive animal protection, decontamination plans

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When Col. Gary Vroegindewey, assistant chief of the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps, convened the first National Animal CBRNE (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosive) Summit this past December, he commented, "People assume that the veterinary community has comprehensive protection and decontamination plans for every type of animal. We are not there yet."

The summit was held Dec. 7 in Durham, N.C., in conjunction with the second National Multi-Hazard Symposium. Summit participants came to evaluate the status of equipment, training, and procedures in relation to animal CBRNE protection and decontamination.

Keynote speaker, Dr. Michael Blackwell, dean of the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, gave a presentation titled "When robins cease to fly: The community's role in biosecurity." He emphasized the importance of veterinary and public health roles in preventing and responding to agroterrorism and bioterrorism.

Many organizations have standard operating procedures in place, but few have been truly validated. Guidelines need to be established on the response for each agent and on which species/groups of animals will be decontaminated. Euthanasia, carcass disposal, hazardous material/waste handling, and protection of decontamination teams must be taken into consideration when developing plans and deciding which equipment will work.

Human decontamination equipment has the potential to be adapted for multispecies use. Factors that must be evaluated, however, are durability, cost, restraint needed during decontamination, and effectiveness of the equipment.

More than 90 veterinarians, veterinary technicians, members of academia, public health professionals, agriculture professionals, disaster response team personnel and other organizations from some 25 states participated in the summit.

Agencies represented at the event were the Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration, North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Service's Division of Emergency Programs, AVMA Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams, Medical Advisor Response Division of the Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps and other Uniformed Services personnel.

The summit concluded with a proposal that working groups or task forces be developed. A nationally focused effort is needed to evaluate and prioritize research efforts. Veterinarians interested in becoming involved in the animal protection or decontamination initiative are asked to contact Maj. Kelley Evans at kelley [dot] evansatamedd [dot] army [dot] mil or (210) 221-2932), or Dr. Lisa Murphy at murphylpatvet [dot] upenn [dot] edu or (610) 925-6217.