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Homeland Security

Scenario 14: Biological Attack -
Foreign Animal Disease (Foot & Mouth Disease)

Executive Summary

Casualties None
Infrastructure Damage Huge loss of livestock
Evacuations/Displaced Persons None
Contamination None
Economic Impact Hundreds of millions of dollars
Potential for Multiple Events Yes
Recovery Timeline Months

Although this scenario depicts an intentional attack on the U.S. livestock industry, the accidental importation of certain diseases is also a hazard.

Scenario Overview:

General Description -

Foot and mouth disease is an acute infectious viral disease that causes blisters, fever, and lameness in cloven-hoofed animals such as cattle and swine. Pregnant animals often abort and dairy cattle may dry up. It spreads rapidly among such animals and can be fatal in young animals. The disease is not considered a human threat.

In this scenario, members of the Universal Adversary (UA) enter the United States to survey large operations in the livestock industries. The UA targets several locations for a coordinated bioterrorism attack on the agricultural industry. Approximately two months later, UA teams enter the United States and infect farm animals at specific locations.

The U.S. livestock transportation system is highly efficient and movements are rapid and frequent. Although the initial event will be localized at transportation facilities in several states, as the biological agent matures and the livestock are transported, the geographical area will widen to include surrounding states where the livestock are delivered.

Timeline/Event Dynamics -

The foreign animal disease (FAD) is initially detected using clinical signs and veterinary medical detection and identification. Over a period of approximately 2 weeks, federal, state, and local animal health professionals put in place surveillance, detection, containment, remediation, and disposal protocols. This is followed by surveillance, detection, containment, remediation, and disposal protocols continue until testing confirms the FAD is eradicated.

Secondary Hazards/Events -

Environmental issues regarding contaminated land and equipment must be seriously considered and addressed. Disposal of carcasses of culled animals must be done in an environmentally conscious and expeditious manner.

Key Implications:

There are no human fatalities or injuries. However, massive numbers of affected livestock are disposed of because the United States has a national policy not to vaccinate. Property damage will be limited to land mass required for disposal of euthanized livestock (burial).

All transportation into and out of the affected areas will be severely limited to prevent further dispersion of the FAD to unaffected areas. Both commercial and private/personal travel will be limited.

The extent of economic impact will depend on the ability to limit the geographical spread of the outbreak. A great economic impact will be realized in many sectors of the economy, including but not limited to agriculture. Long-term issues will be centered mostly on foreign trade.

Economic factors will include the value of the affected livestock that must be disposed of; the cost of federal, state, and local governments to identify, contain, and eradicate the FAD; the cost of disposal and remediation; the loss of revenue suffered by the commercial transportation industry; the loss of revenue suffered by the retail industry due to public perception that the FAD poses a disease risk; the loss of export markets immediately upon confirmation that the FAD exists; and the cost to renew the livestock lost to euthanasia.

The inevitable development and utilization of new technologies to include rapid detection, improved traditional vaccines/advanced molecular vaccines, and new therapeutics (including antiviral agents and other novel biomedical approaches) will lead to a physiological "hardening" of the U.S. farm animal population against FADs, thereby making them unattractive targets of bioterrorism. Although psychological impacts will be realized, human health issues will not be a consideration if a farm animal disease-causing agent is used.

Mission Areas Activated:


Prevention/Deterrence/Protection - The full force of the agricultural disease protection system will be challenged in order to prevent or detect further attacks.

Emergency Assessment/Diagnosis - Investigations using epidemiological trace-back, microbial forensics, and other approaches will be utilized to determine the source of the agent and identity of the perpetrators.

Emergency Management/Response - If the scope of the outbreak grows, the ability to effectively conduct intrastate and interstate command and control activities, as well as the ability to successfully allocate resources, will be a challenge. States would have a need for containment, federal funding and personnel, and the use and availability of the National Guard. Federal mobilization based on the National Response Plan. Evoking the Stafford Act would be considered.

Incident/Hazard Mitigation - The halt of national movement of susceptible animals may be necessary. Equitable indemnification and when to begin reconstitution of the herds leading to economic recovery will be a major consideration.

Public Protection - Information must be provided in order to combat the public's fear and the spread of misinformation about the disease.

Victim Care - It will be necessary to euthanize and dispose of infected and exposed animals.

Investigation/Apprehension - Investigation and apprehension will entail a criminal investigation, involving law enforcement and agricultural experts.

Recovery/Remediation - Ranches, feedlots, transportation modes, and other locations will require decontamination and cleanup. Cleaning and disinfecting are tools used to impede the spread of pathogenic microorganisms. All premises should be cleaned and disinfected under supervision of a regulatory animal health employee.




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