Prepared by: Steve Henry is a veterinarian from Abilene who works primarily with hogs. He also is an adjunct professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology at Kansas State University's College of Veterinary Medicine and earned his veterinary degree from K-State in 1972. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
OP-ED: NBAF IN KANSAS WOULD BE ABLE TO RESPOND MORE RAPIDLY TO ANIMAL HEALTH CHALLENGES
The announcement that Kansas is the preferred site for the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility, or NBAF, is welcome news. This key part of our national animal health protection now will be placed to respond with speed and accuracy when animal health challenges arise.
As a practicing veterinarian for the last 35 years, I have had a host of encounters with animal disease, mostly concerning swine. As one of the veterinarians who is "boots first on the ground" when dealing with animal disease outbreaks in Kansas, I know first-hand the anxiety while awaiting a critically needed rapid, accurate diagnosis.
I have experience in a number of cases where animals in Kansas showed signs of foreign animal disease, cases that triggered our U.S. response system. And, it is because of these experiences that I am confident the system would be vastly improved if the NBAF were placed in Manhattan. Having this modern facility centrally located in the U.S. -- in Manhattan and Kansas -- is ideal.
Time and speed are the most important factors when trying to stop a foreign animal disease from spreading. Response time is literally measured in "million-dollar hours." Having such a facility located in the thick of the livestock industry will be key to response time, as most samples originate here. Nearly half of the nation's fed cattle, 40 percent of the U.S. hog population, and 20 percent of the U.S. beef cows and calves are within a 350-mile radius of Manhattan.
As a medical professional at the human-animal interface when bad stuff happens, I think of NBAF as our bomb squad and "CSI: Miami" laboratory rolled into one. NBAF is where the unknown cases go many times each year. NBAF is the only place that can issue the "all clear" when we don't know what we're dealing with. Like the bomb and "CSI" analogy, we need it right and we need it fast. This critical response capability will improve dramatically with the location of NBAF and its modern laboratories in Manhattan.
K-State brings a great deal of expertise with its veterinary and livestock production scientists to collaborate with the NBAF. An affiliation with the university will strengthen and augment the mission of NBAF and our nation's livestock industries. The direct interaction of NBAF scientists with veterinarians is critical to making sure cases are not only diagnosed properly, but also are rapidly resolved.
Also, students in the region's veterinary colleges, including K-State's College of Veterinary Medicine, can be trained to support the future of this vital national defense. That means NBAF's location in Kansas will be a powerful influence in the training of scientists for the future.
As a proud Kansan and a potential user of the services to be offered at NBAF, its function and location have daily relevance in my world. If the recommendation is confirmed, the future of our national food security would prove to advance.