Lessons in biosecurity

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We all know biosecurity is a great defense against the spread of diseases and pathogens, some of which can be quite deadly. We talk about it ad nauseum in the cattle industry and rail on the benefits of clean gloves, new needles, sanitized equipment and boots washed between farms.

But sometimes I don’t think we take it to heart as much as we should, and until other events happen that showcase the need for biosecurity, we don’t always give it the proper respect.

One example is the contaminated raw sprout incident that occurred in the sprouts served by Jimmy John’s, which were sourced from Tiny Greens Organic Farm in Urbana, Ill. Kansas State University’s food safety expert Doug Powell says in his barfblog that after FDA inspectors noted that Tiny Greens employees, who were wearing boots, pushed carts through compost water runoff outside the facility and did not sanitize boots or carts before returning through a greenhouse door to the production area. Now, the outside carts and boots never come inside the production facility, and inside boots and carts never go outside the facility. On the dairy that seems akin to not using the same wheelbarrows or bobcats to scoop manure and then be used to haul feed.

Another recent example of biosecurity is the equine herpesvirus-1 outbreak that stemmed from a show in Ogden, Utah, where horses passed the virus around through direct and indirect contact with each other, and then many of those horses took the often-deadly virus home to their stablemates. More stringent biosecurity measures by horse owners could have reduced the transmission of the virus.

We all get tired of hearing wash your hands, clean your boots, keep everything clean between animals or groups of animals. But as we’ve seen recently, these measures aren’t just a “nice thing to do.” Veterinarians especially have a duty to do everything they can to prevent disease transmission from farm-to-farm. They can save lives, human or animal, and shouldn’t be taken for granted.


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