March 5, 2024


New funding to help US respond to unexplained morbidity events in animals




A US$1 million funding will support the United States' rapid investigations of unexplained morbidity or mortality events, or UMEs, in animals – unexpected deaths or illnesses that could signal emerging threats.


The funding is part of a collaboration between the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN) to bolster national animal health preparedness.


"This proactive approach to surveillance strengthens APHIS' commitment to safeguarding animal health across the nation," the USDA said in a release.


The cooperative agreement is managed by Michigan State University's Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, a member of the NAHLN. The funding will be used to reimburse testing expenses at any NAHLN laboratory for UME cases that meet specific criteria, the USDA explained.


"The ability to rapidly diagnose unknown illnesses in animals is vital for preventing outbreaks and safeguarding public health," APHIS Administrator Mike Watson said in a release. "This new cooperative agreement marks a significant leap forward in our ability to detect emerging threats at the earliest stages through advanced testing and collaboration with the NAHLN."


Testing is essential to not only identify the causes of illness or death in animals, but also to evaluate potential risks to other animals and public health. By providing funding for UME testing, APHIS is helping to proactively identify and address potential disease threats before they become larger, more difficult-to-control outbreaks.


"Early detection and identification of potential threats to animal health is critical to our ability to protect the health of our nation's animals, the food supply and potentially human health," APHIS Veterinarian Medical Officer and UME project lead Sara Ahola said in the release.


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