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November 2, 2006

Illinois Department of Agriculture To Train Local Veterinarians As Emergency First Responders
Seminar will enhance Illinois’ preparedness for an animal disease outbreak

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – More than 100 Illinois veterinarians who have volunteered to help in the event of an animal health emergency will receive specialized training during a day-long seminar Nov. 3 at the Wyndham Hotel in Itasca.

The training is part of the Illinois Department of Agriculture’s IVERT (Illinois Veterinary Emergency Response Team) initiative, an effort to establish a unified response to animal health emergencies by increasing intergovernmental cooperation and building a partnership between public animal health officials and private veterinary practitioners.

“Since private practitioners likely will be the first responders to an animal disease outbreak, it’s crucial that they be knowledgeable about emerging and foreign animal disease threats,” Agriculture Director Chuck Hartke said. “A coordinated and swift response can be the difference between containment of a disease to a single farm and widespread infection that causes the death of many livestock and millions of dollars in lost income.”

This is the fourth statewide IVERT training seminar.  Previous seminars have included instruction on the identification of foreign animal diseases, potential bioterrorist agents, the Incident Command System (ICS) that state and federal emergency management agencies use when responding to disasters and hands-on exercises that allow veterinarians to apply the lessons they have learned in a simulated animal disease outbreak.

 This year’s seminar will include an explanation of the newest technologies to detect foreign animal diseases, an update on Illinois’ avian flu response plan and a review of the ICS.

 “This training will provide veterinarians with the knowledge they need to safely and effectively respond to an accidental or intentional introduction of a disease pathogen,” State Veterinarian Mark Ernst said.

The Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association helped organize the training, which will precede the association’s annual convention.  The seminar will be held in the Lakeshore Room from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
IVERT is one in a series of safety measures that the Department has undertaken to protect animal health and improve emergency preparedness. 

Other measures include:

• Establishing an online premise identification registry to identify every farm, feedlot, sales barn and slaughter facility in the state that handles food animals.  The registry is the first step toward implementation of a national animal identification system that will enable livestock and poultry to be rapidly traced from the farm to the dinner fork.
• Requiring a permit for all livestock imported into the state for production or exhibition.  The requirement gives state agriculture officials advance notice of farm animals entering Illinois and allows for faster tracing if diseased animals enter the state. 
• Funding the development of a Geographic Information System to track agricultural assets such as farms, grain elevators and food processing plants. Once completed, the first-of-its-kind system will contain a valuable database of information to identify sensitive resources and aid decision-making during emergencies.
• Organizing meetings with neighboring states to develop regional communications plans and guidelines for tracing and controlling the movement of livestock in an emergency.
• Expanding surveillance for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or “mad cow” disease, to make sure cattle feed produced on Illinois farms does not contain ingredients that could transmit the brain-wasting disease. 


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