VMDL Clinical Instructor Rosalie Ierardi, DVM, MS, offers insights into the importance of postmortem diagnostics and how we can partner with local veterinarians to serve producers.
Starting Monday May 23, 2022, the Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (VMDL) will require a completed payment agreement form and an accompanying $60.00 pre-payment deposit in order to receive and provide diagnostic testing services on owner submitted accessions.
VMDL will provide clients with an invoice upon completion of diagnostic accession work. The pre-payment balance will be applied toward the total invoice balance. Any remaining balance must be paid to the VMDL within 30 days of the invoice date.
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MU Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Lab helps identify avian influenza among Missouri poultry.
Throughout the country, an extremely infectious disease called highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has been circulating rapidly among flocks of chicken and turkeys.While the disease poses little risk to humans, it presents a serious threat to infected birds as well as the nation’s poultry industry, which is already facing supply chain disruptions.
At the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, the Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (VMDL) is on the frontlines, tracking the disease and alerting veterinary officials to confirmed cases of the virus in poultry. When the first presumed HPAI case turned up on March 3 in Stoddard County, Missouri, MU’s VMDL ran the test.
“Missouri ranks in the top 10 of broiler production and is also an important source for egg production and turkeys,” said Daniel Shaw, a professor emeritus of veterinary pathobiology and a researcher at MU’s VMDL. “Our ultimate goals are to keep animals healthy, support the agriculture and farming industries in Missouri, and help poultry producers monitor their flocks by quickly testing for suspected cases.”
During the last outbreak of HPAI in 2015, the virus affected flocks throughout the country, resulting in almost $3 billion in economic impacts and the deaths of an estimated 50 million birds. This year, it has already been found in 23 states and nearly 17 million birds, leading to entire flocks being euthanized in an effort to limit the spread of the virus, as well as an increase in egg and chicken prices at grocery stores.
“When birds present signs of possible infection, such as decreased eating or drinking, they are given throat-swab PCR tests, similar to those performed to screen for COVID-19,” Shaw said. “These samples are sent to our VMDL here in Columbia, where we work to process the samples to provide results to the poultry producers, often in less than four hours.”
MU’s VMDL, led by Shuping Zhang, a professor in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine, performed more than 162,000 diagnostic tests in 2021 for a range of animal diseases, including chronic wasting disease in deer and African swine fever in pigs. The efforts have helped protect both animal health and the agriculture and farming industries, which are critical to Missouri’s economy.
Shaw explained wild waterfowl act as carriers of HPAI, producing and shedding large amounts of the virus in nasal secretions and fecal material.
“The virus is preserved by cool, moist conditions and protected by mucus and fecal material,” Shaw said. “It can easily infect poultry flocks, particularly those that are free-range or in small, backyard populations.”
Since people and equipment are common means of transmission of the virus between farms, strong bio-security strategies are encouraged, including feed delivery trucks unloading from outside farms and requiring those entering to put on clean shoes and protective suits.
“In the weeks and months ahead, we will continue tracking HPAI and supporting farmers navigating the challenges brought on by this outbreak,” Shaw said. “We are simply doing our part to keep animals healthy, help poultry producers and support our state’s vital agriculture industry.”
Recent reports of African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreaks in the Dominican Republic and Haiti have heightened surveillance efforts for the highly contagious viral swine disease in the United States.
University of Missouri’s Shuping Zhang, professor and director of the Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (VMDL) in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine, explains the dangers of ASF and the role the VMDL plays in testing for the virus to help protect animal health and the country’s agriculture industry.
What is African Swine Fever and why is it so concerning?
ASF is a highly infectious and deadly viral disease that affects both domestic and wild swine. It originated in Africa but has since spread to Europe, Asia and recently to the Caribbean.
An outbreak in the U.S. would be devastating to our economy, particularly the agriculture industry. Governments often block pork imports from countries with confirmed cases of ASF, so there would be enormous economic consequences if we were unable to continue exporting pigs and pork products abroad. A 2018 outbreak in China, where half of the earth’s pigs are located, killed more than 100 million pigs.
Have there been any confirmed cases in the U.S. yet and can humans get sick from eating pork contaminated with African Swine Fever?
The good news is there has never been a confirmed case of ASF in the U.S., and we hope to keep it that way. Also, it is not a zoonotic disease; So it is not possible for humans to get sick from ASF by eating contaminated pork.
What symptoms should pig farmers look out for?
The clinical signs of ASF include high fever, lethargy, depression, skin discoloration, and possibly vomiting and diarrhea. Other signs to look for include swollen or enlarged spleens and lymph nodes.
What role does MU’s Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory play in monitoring African Swine Fever?
The VMDL collaborates with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, state veterinarians and pork producers to conduct general surveillance testing and testing of sick pigs. We receive swine tissue samples from swine farms and slaughter houses across Missouri.
After receiving samples, we produce test results within 6 hours and if a test were to come back positive, we have plans to alert state and federal authorities within minutes. That way, decisions regarding quarantining and the imports or exports of pork products can be made immediately to protect United States trade interests and quickly identify the extent of the outbreak.
What is the Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory’s testing capacity?
We have been testing for ASF for many years. Currently, we have six staff members who are certified to test for ASF and eight polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machines for ASF testing. Our current capacity is about 1,500 test samples per day. But, if an outbreak were to occur, we could immediately increase our capacity given our resources.
How does the Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory help protect the state’s agriculture industry?
There are 60 labs across the country that are part of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN). The MU VMDL is the only NAHLN Level 1 lab in Missouri, the highest level a lab can achieve, and the only animal health lab in Missouri that is accredited by the American Association of Veterinarian Laboratory Diagnosticians.
We take pride in our responsibility and obligation to protect both animal health and the agriculture industry, which is very important for Missouri’s economy. By testing for and diagnosing viruses, bacteria and pathogens, we help Missourians stay safe while training the next generation of veterinarian diagnosticians and supporting the university’s research mission.
To arrange an interview with Shuping Zhang, please contact Brian Consiglio with the MU News Bureau at 573-882-9144 or email@example.com.
Story courtesy of Show Me Mizzou