CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Department of Agriculture (WVDA) took part in a three-day, multi-state emergency response exercise November 16-18. The Foreign Animal Disease Southern Agriculture Functional Exercise (FAD SAFE) was sponsored by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and included the Departments of Agriculture of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.
“We have not seen Foot and Mouth Disease in the United States in nearly 100 years. Regardless, it is one of the worst potential diseases that could afflict the United States,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt. “I am proud that the WVDA continues to further our emergency response capabilities in order to protect our farmers and agricultural commerce.”
The exercise allowed states to work together as a simulated case of Food and Mouth Disease (FMD) spread from Georgia throughout the southern U.S. including West Virginia. The exercise challenged the WVDA staff to set up a simulated Incident Command System to work through the specifics of how to handle a potentially devastating animal disease from halting the transport of animals and working with other state agencies, to testing suspected cases of the disease and informing the public about the outbreak and how it would impact the state.
The exercise simulated an outbreak of FMD, a severe and highly contagious viral disease. FMD causes illness in cows, pigs, sheep, goats, deer and other animals with divided hooves. It does not affect horses, dogs or cats. FMD is not a public health or food safety threat.
“We learned a lot over the three-day exercise and now understand how we can improve our internal capabilities. In addition, we had good conversation with partners on how we can better coordinate efforts and resources if we ever had to respond to a situation,” said State Veterinarian Dr. James Maxwell. “Our next step is to evaluate our standard operating procedures and plans and make the appropriate adjustments.”
WVDA staff have gone through extensive Incident Command System training over the past several years to prepare for training exercises and potential disease outbreaks.