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Roles Veterinarians Can Play in Combating Bioterrorism

ANIMALS AS SENTINELS FOR ACCIDENTAL OR INTENTIONAL INTRODUCTION OF DISEASE:

ROLE OF VETERINARY SURVEILLANCE

Submitted by:
Michele Jay, DVM, MPVM, Dip. ACVPM,
Acting Chief/State Public Health Veterinarian
Veterinary Public Health Section
Disease Investigations and Surveillance Branch
California Department of Health Services
Sacramento, California

Kenneth Thomazin, DVM
Chief, Animal Health Branch
California Department of Food and Agriculture
Sacramento, California

Although the threat of intentional introduction of disease is low, during this time of heightened alert veterinarians can play a significant role in passive surveillance. The Veterinary Public Health Section (VPHS), California Department of Health Services and the Animal Health Branch (AHB), California Department of Food and Agriculture prepared this document for the veterinary medical community in California to provide information and encourage reporting of unusual diseases in animals.

Through October 23, 2001, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report 11 confirmed cases of human anthrax (two in Florida, two in New Jersey, three in New York, four in Washington, D.C.) from intentional delivery of Bacillus anthracis spores in mailed letters or packages. No animal or human anthrax cases or contaminated letters were reported in California. Detailed reports of current events are available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website at: https://emergency.cdc.gov/bioterrorism/ and http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/.

Your assistance in enhancing veterinary disease surveillance for anthrax or other unusual animal diseases is requested since the veterinarian’s awareness, suspicion, and detection of certain infectious diseases, or unusual patterns of disease, may be the first indication of an accidental or intentional introduction of disease. Rapid reporting, diagnosis, and the immediate epidemiologic investigation that will follow could save animal or human lives by confining the spread of disease and/or by the use of appropriate prophylactic or therapeutic medications. In addition to a short list of zoonotic diseases of concern, the use of foreign animal disease agents is also a possibility.

All animals—including pets, livestock, and wildlife—may serve as sentinels of disease. Events suggestive of intentional introduction of disease may include:

  • Recognition of higher than expected numbers of unexplained illness or death in animals over a brief time period.
  • A cluster of suspected or laboratory confirmed feline or canine plague cases in an endemic area, or a single case in a non-endemic area in an animal with no travel history.
  • Cluster of suspected or laboratory confirmed anthrax cases in livestock or pets with no known risk factors.
  • Cluster of suspected or laboratory confirmed botulism cases in livestock or pets with no known risk factors.

Please contact VPHS or the AHB District Office in your area immediately to report a suspect case of a reportable disease or unusual illness in animals. Routine testing or prophylactic antibiotics for animal (or human) contacts of persons who may have been exposed to a potential source of anthrax are not recommended. Diagnosis of anthrax and other unusual disease agents (e.g., botulism, brucellosis, plague, tularemia) requires specialized testing in public health or veterinary reference laboratories.

TO REPORT A SUSPECT CASE OR OUTBREAK OF AN UNUSUAL ILLNESS IN ANIMALS CONTACT:

VETERINARY PUBLIC HEALTH SECTION (Companion Animals/Exotics)
California Department of Health Services

Phone: 916-327-0332

ANIMAL HEALTH BRANCH (Livestock)
California Department of Food and Agriculture
SACRAMENTO HEADQUARTERS

Phone: 916-654-1447

 

REDDING DISTRICT*                           TULARE DISTRICT*
Phone: 530-225-2140                            Phone: 559-685-3500

MODESTO DISTRICT*                          ONTARIO DISTRICT*
Phone: 209-491-9350                            Phone: 909-947-4462

WILDLIFE INVESTIGATIONS LABORATORY (Wildlife)
California Department of Fish and Game

Phone: 916-358-2790

 *available for emergency reports 24 hours a day, seven days a week

Clinical characteristics of unusual diseases in animals.

For more information, visit these websites:

California Department of Food and Agriculture, Animal Health Branch
http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/ahfss/ah/index.htm

California Department of Health Services, Veterinary Public Health Section
http://www.dhs.ca.gov/dcdc/html/publicat.htm

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Program
https://emergency.cdc.gov/bioterrorism/

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Health Topics (including zoonoses and bioterrorism threat agents)
http://www.cdc.gov/health/diseases.htm

 

Updated January 2006

© 2017 California Veterinary Medical Association

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