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Local veterinarian part of emergency response team

Local veterinarian, Dr. Cindy Sasse, has been part of an initiative involving over 180 veterinarians in the state to be prepared in the face of agroterrorism for the last decade. LEDRS (Livestock Emergency Response System) is an organized group of individuals concerned with the potential spread and control of serious disease among animals.

In 2001, foot and mouth disease broke out in the United Kingdom crippling the livestock industry, Dr. Sasse recalls. “I’m sure anyone who owns livestock will vividly remember the news clips showing the burning piles of animals.”

At the same time, a pseudorabies virus outbreak in Nebraska caused state officials, including State Veterinarian Dr. Dennis Hughes, to take a second look at how devastating the spread of such diseases could be to the industry. Following on the heels of the outbreaks, the 9/11 tragedy turned those concerned individuals to speculation about agroterrorism. The events of 9/11 brought to the forefront the realities of the potential of a foreign animal disease, or an agroterrorist event, that could endanger the state’s number one industry – livestock, Dr. Hughes explained earlier this summer during a livestock emergency disease response system meeting.

Today, after a decade of organization, LEDRS works hand-in-hand with the Nebraska Department of Agriculture and homeland security to coordinate and execute a rapid response to the outbreak (or potential outbreak) of a livestock disease.

“We began to formulate ways in which to control and quickly eradicate an outbreak of disease such as foot and mouth, the fastest spreading and most devastating virus to threaten our livestock,” Dr. Sasse said. “We took computer courses to become comfortable working within an ICS (incident command system) organization and trained with various emergency response groups. Since its organization, we’ve been fine-tuning our skills in the case of a livestock emergency.”

Dr. Sasse said the group has already responded to smaller scale incidences and their training kept disease from spreading very efficiently. “We are ready to answer the call,” Dr. Sasse says. “We are now able to react in a matter of hours, not days. We are an educated and trained emergency response team.”

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