Public comment period for FMD vaccine and Farm Bill funding opportunities

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board of animal health

Animal Bytes

July 2020

What you need to know about the SARS-CoV-2 virus and pets

Dog with owner. Owner wearing a mask.

SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19. Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of pets spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low.

Routine testing of pets for SARS-CoV-2 is not recommended.

How will the decision to test be made?

Public and animal health officials may decide to test certain animals showing signs of illness and that are known to have been exposed to the virus on a case-by-case basis. The decision to test an animal will be authorized by the Minnesota State Veterinarian in cooperation with the Minnesota State Public Health Veterinarian. Minnesota’s State Veterinarian can authorize testing on any animal within the state. Authorization for testing will be conducted within the two following areas:

  1. When requested by a private veterinarian who is reporting:
    • A new, concerning illness that cannot be otherwise explained.
    • The companion animal has had close contact with a person with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infection.
    • Common companion animal illnesses have been ruled out by testing for infectious diseases.
  2. When requested by academic institutions for the purpose of research:
    • The proposal, sampling criteria, animal species, and scope of the project will be outlined prior to authorization.
    • Researchers will establish an endpoint for each study in conjunction with the Board of Animal Health based upon time and date, or number of animals/households tested.
    • If the scope of the project, the testing criteria, or the endpoint changes, the State Veterinarian must authorize those changes.

The CDC has additional resources online, including a one-page flyer with details on pets and COVID-19.

Keep reading...

Public comment period open for FMD vaccine project

A vaccine manufacturer is seeking approval to produce foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) vaccine consisting of a modified non-infectious and non-transmissible strain of the virus in the U.S. The USDA opened a public comment period to gather feedback on the proposal.

The live virus of FMD is not allowed anywhere in the country except the Plum Island Animal Disease Center where it is held and worked with under very strict biocontainment procedures. This federal exemption will also apply to the new National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility in Kansas.

The vaccine, which was developed jointly with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, is non-infectious, non-transmissible, and incapable of causing the disease because it has been modified in such a way that it is no longer able to produce infection. The manufacturer asserts that because the FMD virus is no longer able to produce infection, it should not be considered live virus of FMD and should be able to be produced on the U.S. mainland.

As part of the petition review process, APHIS is seeking comments from the public on two topics: the manufacturer’s interpretation of live virus and whether there is support for manufacturing the vaccine in the United States. APHIS will accept public comments through September 14, 2020. APHIS will thoroughly review all comments before making its determination.

Notice from APHIS about RFID tags

The USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is seeking public comment on a proposal where APHIS would only approve Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) as the official eartag for use in interstate movement of cattle that are required to be identified by traceability regulations. Manufacturer coded tags (900 series tags) are excluded.

A transition to RFID tags would support APHIS’ ongoing efforts to increase animal disease traceability by more accurately and rapidly allowing animal health officials to know where affected and at-risk animals are located. While this would not prevent disease outbreaks, it would allow animal health officials to more quickly contain outbreaks early before they can do substantial damage to the U.S. cattle industry.

APHIS is also seeking comment on a proposed timeline for implementation, which the agency would use if this transition occurs. The timeline would make RFID tags the only option for use in cattle and bison requiring official identification on January 1, 2023. APHIS would “grandfather in” animals with metal tags already in place on that date – their metal tags would serve as official identification for the remainder of their lifespan.

This transition timeline would not alter the existing regulations. The cattle and bison that must be identified will not change, nor will the option for animal health officials in shipping and receiving states to agree to accept alternate forms of identification, including brands and tattoos, in lieu of official identification.

Public comments will be accepted through October 5, 2020.

2020 open period for Farm Bill funding opportunities

The USDA is seeking project proposals for fiscal year 2020 funding for the National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program and the National Animal Health Laboratory Network.

Up to $10 million will be targeted toward NADPRP projects focused on increasing practical livestock biosecurity measures or advancing rapid depopulation and disposal abilities to be used during high consequence animal disease outbreaks. Up to $5 million will be directed toward NAHLN projects that address needs within the network related to receiving, testing, and reporting results for animal testing.

The 2018 Farm Bill provided funding for these programs as part of an overall strategy to help prevent animal pests and diseases from entering the U.S. and reduce the spread and impact of potential disease incursions through advance planning and preparedness. Proposals must be submitted by September 14, 2020.

Join an upcoming webinar to learn more. July 23, 2020 from 3:00 - 4:30 p.m. EDT. To participate, call 1-888-251-2949 and enter access code: 8685577#. Then, join the conference from your computer. Participants may join the webinar 10 minutes before the scheduled start.

Breeder excellence program launches

The Minnesota Board of Animal Health Breeder Excellence Program is a statutory program to recognize people who demonstrate commercial breeder excellence and exceed the standards and practices required of commercial breeders in Minnesota.

The Breeder Excellence program officially started July 1, 2020. Only commercial dog or cat breeders licensed with the Board can apply to be part of the Breeder Excellence program. Commercial dog and cat breeders that exceed the standards and practices required of commercial breeders have the opportunity to earn up to five different badges in the Breeder Excellence program. A commercial breeder that earns all five badges will be recognized as a Breeder of Excellence. Program badges are good for one-year only and qualifying breeders will receive a new badge each year that they apply they qualify.

The Board will maintain a list of commercial dog and cat breeders in the Breeder Excellence program on its website.

Look for a press release announcing the program soon!