Why It Matters

An outbreak of a highly contagious animal disease in Minnesota could have public health or economic ramifications for the state and potentially the whole nation.

As the lead state agency in responding to domestic animal disease emergencies in Minnesota, emergency preparedness is a priority for the Board. We work with federal, state and local government agencies, industry organizations and livestock producers to ensure adequate preparation.

Prevention

Producers can implement biosecurity management practices on their farms to minimize the risk of a disease being introduced to the animals on their farm. These practices include:

  1. Isolating recently purchased animals from the rest of your herd or flock for 30 days or more to make sure they are disease-free.
  2. Having separate entrances for delivery trucks so they do not come into contact or use the same paths as farm animals or farm vehicles. These trucks can carry manure or other debris on them from previous stops. These “leftovers” could contain disease organisms from other locations.
  3. Make sure visitors and workers have clean footwear and clothing before entering animal areas on your farm.

Response

Early detection of a highly contagious animal disease and prompt reporting are critical to a successful response. We work with private practice veterinarians so they can identify the symptoms of these diseases when they examine farm animals. Suspected foreign animal diseases should be immediately reported to your veterinarian or an animal health official.

Monday through Friday (8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)

Call the Board at (651) 296-2942 or the U.S. Department of Agriculture at (651) 290-3691.

After hours (24-hour answering service)

Call the Minnesota Duty Officer at (800) 422-0798 or contact your district veterinarian.

The primary goal is to successfully eradicate the disease as quickly as possible. Minnesota has a network of producer groups, organizations and agencies that have worked together to develop plans to respond to disease events. Our state has been successful in eliminating diseases, including bovine tuberculosis and low pathogenic avian influenza, in the past. However, each situation will have unique concerns such as:

  • Depopulation, or euthanasia, of infected and exposed animals
  • Environmentally-sound disposal of carcasses and other infected products,
  • Use of environmentally-safe disinfectants,
  • Timely dissemination of pertinent public information, and
  • Economic impact to owners of infected or exposed herds and flocks.

The Board considers all of these factors when determining the best course of action in responding to a disease.

Foreign Animal Diseases

A foreign animal disease (FAD), or exotic animal disease, is a disease that is not currently found in the United States. Certain FADs may have been in the U.S. at some point, but have been eradicated. There are many FADs that have never been found in our country. The FADs of greatest concern could cause significant illness or death in animals or cause economic harm by eliminating trade with other countries and states. These diseases would greatly impact the livelihood of Minnesota farmers and rural communities.

Investigating a Foreign Animal Disease

Minnesota has foreign animal disease diagnosticians (FADD) located throughout the state that are available 24 hours a day to investigate suspected cases of a FAD. The FADDs are state or federal regulatory veterinarians with specialized, hands-on training in diagnosing these diseases.

An investigation is triggered when the state veterinarian receives a report of animals with symptoms indicative of a FAD or when a diagnostic laboratory identifies a suspicious test result. The state veterinarian assigns a FADD to investigate the case immediately. Should a FAD be identified in Minnesota, the State would initiate its FAD response plan. This plan was drafted as a coordinated effort between the Board, Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Foot and Mouth Disease

Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) is a highly contagious viral disease that affects cloven hoofed animals, such as cattle, hogs, sheep, goats and deer. The disease is not a threat to human health.

FMD is caused by a virus that can be spread by air, direct contact with infected animals or animal products, and indirect contact with clothing, equipment, feed or manure contaminated with the virus. The virus can survive in the environment. Cool temperatures and a moist and organic environment allow the virus to survive longer while a dry environment and sunlight inactivate the virus.

The primary signs of FMD infection are depression, excessive salivation and lameness, vesicles (blisters) and erosions in the mouth, nares, muzzle, feet or teats. Although few infected animals die and many recover, the disease often leaves animals debilitated with weight loss, permanent hoof damage or poor growth.

There are many strains of FMD. There is no universal vaccine against FMD as vaccine must closely match the serotype and subtype of the circulating strain in order to protect unexposed animals. Once the guilty strain has been identified, vaccination can be used to control the disease.

In recent years, FMD has been found in Africa, South America, Asia, and parts of Europe with major outbreaks in South Korea and Japan in the last year. Currently, North America, Central America, Australia, New Zealand and some countries in Europe are considered free of FMD. The United States has eradicated nine outbreaks of FMD, the last of which occurred in 1929. If an outbreak were to occur today, many farmers’ livelihoods would be at risk from economic losses due to decreased milk and meat production. Valuable exports would be lost due to the resulting embargoes on products from the U.S. If deer or other wildlife were to contract the disease, the outbreak would be much more difficult to eradicate and would be even more widespread.

If you think your animals are displaying the clinical signs of FMD, contact your veterinarian or the Board.

Exotic Newcastle Disease

Exotic Newcastle Disease (END) is a highly contagious viral avian disease that is characterized by rapid spread and high mortality rates. Many birds die without showing any clinical signs. A death rate of almost 100 percent can occur among unvaccinated flocks. Vaccinated birds are also susceptible to END but at a lower death rate than vaccinated birds. Since END affects the respiratory, nervous and digestive systems, infected birds may show a wide array of symptoms. Some symptoms include sneezing, coughing, watery green diarrhea, depression, drooping wings or complete paralysis.

Minnesota has never had a case of END in poultry. However, a less serious form of the disease has been identified in wild waterfowl in the state in past years. Waterfowl have the ability to spread disease to poultry through droppings and nose, mouth and eye secretions. As a result, poultry producers have taken additional steps to keep their birds healthy by increasing biosecurity. Among other measures, one of the most effective ways to protect poultry is by making sure they are separated from wild birds.

Though deadly for birds, END does not pose any significant risk to human health. Poultry and egg products are safe to consume. In rare cases, humans have contracted END from infected birds, typically resulting in conjunctivitis with a rapid recovery. When infection is seen in humans, it is most common in laboratory workers, vaccinating crews, and rarely, in poultry handlers.

Highly Pathogenic Influenza in Poultry

Highly pathogenic influenza in poultry is a disease primarily of poultry caused by specific strains of influenza virus. The disease causes severe illness and sudden death in poultry. Highly pathogenic influenza has never been identified in Minnesota poultry.

We continue to work together with Minnesota’s poultry industry and other state and federal agencies to prepare for introductions of highly pathogenic influenza in poultry. The state’s voluntary cooperative control plan includes education, monitoring, reporting and response. Testing for influenza in poultry is conducted at the Minnesota Poultry Testing Laboratory in Willmar. Commercial and non-commercial poultry flocks are routinely tested for influenza prior to being marketed.