In all the following surveillance activities, veterinary practitioners play a key role. Veterinarians in the field are often the first line of defense against the incursion of a disease. Because the veterinary practitioner is usually the primary contact person with the owners of livestock or pets, it is imperative that he or she do all that is possible to educate owners, to be aware of unusual clinical signs, to be aware of current disease outbreaks or threats, and to immediately report possible diseases of concern to both Federal and State Animal Health Officials.
9 CFR Part 161.4(f) requires an accredited veterinarian to immediately report to the Veterinarian-in-Charge and the State Animal Health Official all diagnosed or suspected cases of a communicable animal disease for which APHIS has a control or eradication program in 9 CFR Chapter I, and all diagnosed or suspected cases of any animal disease not known to exist in the United States as provide by Part 71.3(b) of this chapter.
The classic action plan for disease control and eradication is as follows:
In a disease eradication program, it is critically important to recognize that an effective surveillance system is a critical first step that must be in place to be successful. It is imperative to (1) be able to find the disease in order to eliminate it, and (2) find the disease before it has had a chance to spread. If the disease can be identified and eliminated before it has had a chance to spread, eradication can be achieved.
The mission of APHIS –VS is to protect and improve the health, quality, and marketability of our Nation’s animals, animal products, and veterinary biologics by preventing, controlling, or eliminating animal diseases and monitoring and promoting animal health and productivity. To accomplish this, it is critical to be able to detect foreign animal diseases and emerging domestic diseases, monitor disease trends and threats in the United States and other countries, detect risk, evaluate disease control and eradication programs, and provide adequate animal health information. Animal health surveillance plays a key role in accomplishing these goals.
In closing this chapter, we cannot overemphasize the key role veterinary practitioners play in national disease surveillance efforts. The veterinarian in the field is the critical first line of defense against an emerging or foreign animal disease incursion.