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Animal Health at the Crossroads: Preventing, Detecting, and Diagnosing Animal Diseases
and Animals offered advice about animal diseases and animal disease vectors that could be used as agents of agricultural bioterrorism. Because the report discusses themes that are relevant to both intentionally introduced and naturally occurring disease and the potentially devastating consequences of a failure of the animal health network, we have included the conclusions of the report as Appendix D.
In addition to pathogens, toxins, chemicals, and radiological weapons might also be used to purposefully threaten animal health. These topics are outside the focus of this report. However, the committee acknowledges that toxic diseases (such as botulism and domoic acid) are an important concern for animal and human health. Diseases of toxicological origin present challenges different from those of other types of animal diseases. Domestic and wild animals are subject to toxins that occur naturally, for example in plants, or that are the result of human activity. Paralytic shellfish poisoning, domoic acid, Pfeisteria outbreaks, and related phenomena appear tied to coastal pollution and have the potential to make poisonous and inedible a growing proportion of the country’s protein food supply. Therefore toxicology is an essential element in any program addressing animal disease.
The lessons of past disease outbreaks and the prospects of future epidemics suggest that the animal health framework faces a formidable challenge in preventing, detecting, and diagnosing the spectrum of animal diseases, some of which have direct consequences for humans as well as animals. The challenge is multifaceted and includes planning for outbreaks; conducting multidisciplinary research across species; developing new vaccines and rapid diagnostic tools; effectively using the broad capabilities of university, industry, state veterinary diagnostic laboratories; and ensuring that an appropriate and state-of-the-art infrastructure exists to accomplish diagnosis. More than ever, there is a need to develop strong connections between public health and animal health officials, both domestically and internationally, and to expand the scope of animal disease concern to include wild and exotic animals.