Recently, I spoke at a conference in Ames, Iowa. While in Ames, I took the opportunity to get a tour of the National Animal Disease Center, part of the National Centers for Animal Health, along with the National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) and the Center for Veterinary Biologics (CVB).
At the time that I visited, there was a major outbreak of bird flu in the Midwest and one of the things that the NADC does is to conduct biomedical research and try to control such outbreaks. Bird flu has devastating effects on chicken populations, so this research is important in order to keep the food supply safe. And in some cases, it is also contagious to humans, which is even more reason to keep the disease in check, through research and preventative measures.
The National Animal Disease Center does more than just bird flu research and containment, however. Its main mission is to conduct studies on a variety of animal diseases in order to keep wildlife, farm animals, endangered species, pets, and humans safe and healthy. They work with private industry, universities, the U.S. government and even foreign governments to accomplish this research.
Some of the diseases they study include bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or more commonly known as mad cow disease, brucellosis (which threatens bison and elk), chronic wasting disease, classical swine fever, equine herpesvirus, foot-and-mouth disease, Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (which had a horrible impact on pigs in the past year), scrapie, swine Influenza, tick, tuberculosis, and West Nile virus. As you can imagine, these are very dangerous diseases and it is quite important to study them.
While on the tour, I saw a variety of animals that were involved in studies – including horses, cattle, pigs, goats, and even bison. All the animals were very well cared for, and the facility is quite new and state of the art. The facility also does small animal research as well, and there are mice, rats and even zebrafish being studied in a variety of disease studies.
While most people have never heard of the National Animal Disease Center or the National Centers for Animal Health, they do incredibly important work to keep America’s food safe, wildlife healthy, and pets and humans out of harm’s way from contagious animal diseases. It is an amazing facility and should get more recognition.