On Aug. 30, I attended the "Biosecurity: Our Regional & National Response" symposium in Kansas City, Mo. It was a fascinating meeting with speakers talking about past zoonotic events (West Nile Virus) and future threats to the 225 in attendance. They also spoke about the activities in place such as the Biosecurity Research Institute and the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) in Manhattan that will replace Plum Island in about eight years.

Tracey McNamara, DVM, Dipl. ACVP, Western University of Health Sciences College of Veterinary Medicine, spoke about the lack of communication between veterinary, wildlife and public health entities 10 years ago during the West Nile Virus outbreak when she was instrumental in identifying it at the Bronx Zoo.

“The U.S. does not have an integrated strategy of biosurveillance,” she said.

One of the problems was/is the lack of wildlife veterinarians employed by states and conservation agencies. She said there are deep cultural differences between the domestic animal and wildlife communities and the emphasis that is put on diagnostics.

“The point of biosurveillance is to find zoonotic threats in animal sentinels before people are in emergency rooms,” she said.

Larry Barrett, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVPM, director of the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, Department of Homeland Security, spoke about the current role of Plum Island and the capabilities of the NBAF in Manhattan when it is put in place over the next eight years.

“We are protecting livestock from accidental and deliberate introduction of disease,” he said. Disease includes foot-and-mouth (FMD) and others.

Barrett noted a need for more rapid technology such as microarray technology. The goal is to put every virus that is known on this microarray which will finding all viruses involved in a potential outbreak as well as the predominant one that is causing disease.

FMD is of high concern. There are seven serotypes and 60 subtypes. It’ is highly contagious and cloven hoofstock are sentinel indicator hosts. It is a rapidly moving disease with an incubation of 24 hours to 14 days.

Currently, we cannot make a live virus vaccine in US. What can be made now is a killed virus, but we will be able to make a live virus vaccine at the NBAF.

Biotherapetuics are also being looked at that take the natural immune response genes and put them into vaccines for a quick resistance to disease.

Barrett spoke of the need for having a biosafety level 4 laboratory with large animal facilities such as the NBAF. “We had to test for FMD in pigs in Australia because there was no existing facility in the U.S. that can meet that need. The NBAF will be built to be world-class and a safe facility.”