The humanitarian efforts being undertaken by teams from around the world are of paramount importance and take priority following the devastating Haiti earthquake, says the American Association of Swine Veterinarians. The American Veterinary Medical Association, for example, has joined with a coalition of animal health and welfare groups operating in Haiti to facilitate the response from an animal health perspective.
As the slow process of recovery begins, re-establishing some normalcy of life will be critical and animals play a role in the lives of people in Haiti as they do around the world. One of the key issues will be focusing on Haiti's livestock and large population of stray animals.
The response to these issues raises potential concerns for the U.S. livestock industries, says AASV. There are a number of reportable trans-border diseases endemic or suspected on the island of Hispaniola which, if introduced into the U.S. livestock herd, would have devastating effects on animal agriculture,
The challenges associated with responding to such a devastating catastrophe open the door for a breakdown in the normal biosecurity practices that have been successful over the years protecting American agriculture and supporting the efforts of farmers in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
AASV recommends that routine procedures should be re-emphasized and additional precautions should be enacted to minimize the risk of disease introduction and transmission including:
• enhanced awareness at U.S. ports of entry for folks traveling from Hispaniola,
• reminding responders of the dangers of bringing agricultural products into the U.S.,
• wearing disposable coveralls and boots while on farms in Hispaniola,
• frequent thorough hand-washing and showering between farms if possible,
• personal hygiene should include blowing your nose and expectorating,
• comply with downtime recommendations before coming in contact with U.S. livestock (most recommendations call for at least 5 days between contact with animals potentially infected with a foreign animal disease and susceptible livestock)
• increased biosecurity awareness on the part of U.S. livestock producers and veterinarians with regards to international travel, foreign visitors and employees.