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Matt Miesner, clinical associate professor and section head of livestock services in Kansas State University's College of Veterinary Medicine discussed common diseases that can look like more serious transboundary diseases at the Rural Veterinary Practitioner Conference held in Manhattan, Kansas. | Download this photo.

Kansas State University hosts inaugural conference for rural veterinary practitioners

‘Preparing for Disease Challenges’ looked at contingency plans

June 20, 2017


MANHATTAN, Kan. — An inaugural event in Manhattan helped educate rural veterinarians on how to respond and work together in the event of a potential transboundary emergency situation.

Held June 4 at the Hilton Garden Inn, the Rural Veterinary Practitioner Conference was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture with collaboration from the Beef Cattle Institute, Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases, National Agriculture Biosecurity Center, College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University and the Kansas Department of Agriculture.

The conference’s theme was “Preparing for Disease Challenges” and featured a variety of speakers such as Justin Smith, Kansas’ animal health commissioner. He has responsibility for directing the statewide response outbreaks of emerging or transboundary disease. He noted that Kansas is particularly vulnerable, in part, due to the annual shipment of more than 4.5 million head of cattle into the state, not counting cattle shipped purely for purposes of slaughter.

Smith said contingency plans in Kansas are based on the possible outbreak of foot and mouth disease, as it represents a worst-case scenario. He said, “If we can stop that, we can stop anything.”

Smith said the first element of such contingency plans is to stop movement of the animal, which is a key element in controlling the spread of any potential outbreak. He emphasized how veterinarians in Kansas would play key roles in the event of any such outbreak since the state’s full-time manpower is sufficient to cope with the needs in an emergency.

The state response would involve a permitting process, but he added that the state does not want any of its plans to damage the ability of farmers and ranchers to participate in the market.

“We want to make sure we can move product as soon as possible,” Smith said. “The issue is doing it at the speed of commerce.”

Ken Burton, director of project coordination for the Biosecurity Research Institute at Kansas State University and program director for the NABC, noted that with about 320,000 viruses capable of infecting mammals, potential concerns are abundant. He pointed out the nation’s agricultural sector is responsible for about 1 in 10 jobs, contributing $835 billion to the nation’s gross domestic product. With that level of activity, Burton said it’s easy to understand why the job of protecting the nation’s animal food supply from potential transboundary and emerging threats is so vital.

Other Kansas State University animal health experts spoke at the conference including Natalia Cernichiaro, assistant professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology, who discussed the use of data to investigate outbreaks. Mike Sanderson, a professor in the same department, outlined the Secure Beef Supply program.

Matt Miesner, clinical associate professor and section head of livestock services discussed common diseases that can look like more serious transboundary diseases. Professor emeritus Jerome Nietfeld reviewed differential diagnoses of transboundary diseases, and Lina Mur, research assistant professor in infectious diseases epidemiology, gave an overview of the global movement of transboundary animal diseases.

 Gregg Hanzlicek, assistant professor and director of production animal field investigations, spoke about disease trends as determined by diagnostic submissions to the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. Bob Larson, professor of production medicine, covered clinical diagnostic interpretation.


Kelly Oliver

Written by

Joe Montgomery


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K‑State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the wellbeing of Kansans.
Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county extension offices, experiment fields, area extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K‑State campus in Manhattan.