Quick diagnosis and handling are vital when dealing with foreign-animal-disease threats.

“We must discover disease as early as we possibly can,” David Franz, chief biological scientist at the Midwest Research Institute, told those attending the recent International Symposium on Agroterrorism. “Time is about as important as anything we can talk about,” he added.

The experience Great Britain had with foot-and-mouth disease in 2001 is a good example.

Ann Waters, head of contingency planning for the State Veterinary Service in the United Kingdom, said one of the lessons learned from the foot-and-mouth outbreak is that you have to “go in heavy” and throw every available resource at the problem as soon as possible. (Unfortunately for the British, they lost some time at the start of the 2001 outbreak because the first case was not reported until after a group of swine left the farm and arrived at a slaughterhouse.)

Dairy producers who notice strange symptoms among their animals should call a veterinarian immediately so the veterinarian can do a preliminary assessment and then report any further suspicions to the state veterinarian’s office.