Protecting agriculture is nothing new for USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), who is on the job 24/7 keeping livestock safe from animal disease. APHIS is sharing that expertise internationally to help countries protect livestock and threatened and endangered species from diseases like brucellosis, tuberculosis, avian influenza, bluetongue and rabies. APHIS, with help from the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), held a new training course specifically focused on wildlife disease issues. APHIS recently hosted wildlife disease specialists from all over the world, including Cambodia, Kenya, Mexico, Tanzania, Uganda, and Vietnam.

All of APHIS’ capacity building programs are designed to identify and reduce agricultural pest and disease threats while these threats are still outside of U.S. borders. Capacity building includes training and technology transfer to assist foreign partners in building their animal and plant health infrastructures. This capability, in turn, helps to reduce the chances that undetected agricultural threats will find pathways into the United States.

Dr. Charles Masembe, of Makerere University in Uganda, offered insights into feral swine surveillance activities in Uganda at the November training. “This course was a great opportunity to work with our counterparts at USDA and review materials on wildlife disease control. We’ll bring these materials back to our offices to share with our colleagues and promote safe practices in agricultural health and wildlife disease monitoring and research,” said Dr. Masembe.

Highlights of the wildlife disease course included a darting demonstration and an overview of avian trapping techniques. Lectures covered wildlife disease management issues and how wildlife diseases impact domestic livestock. Participants also conducted a disease outbreak simulation where they practiced diagnostic sampling techniques and biosafety and biosecurity protocols. The simulation used glow powder, which was only visible under black light to mimic pathogen exposure. At the end of the simulation instructors checked the participants with a black light to determine whether they were exposed to any of the glow powder while they practiced sampling techniques.

The course was held in Fort Collins, Colorado at APHIS’ National Wildlife Research Center and Colorado State University where participants worked side-by-side with U.S. subject matter experts on wildlife pests and diseases.

The Wildlife Disease Course is just one of many APHIS international capacity building activities. These activities promote science-based approaches to animal and plant health problems around the world. Capacity building training programs foster safe agricultural trade and help the US to maintain relationships with other countries and international organizations. Requests for APHIS expertise or technical assistance include topics such as veterinary epidemiology, regulatory processes and policy, wildlife control and surveillance, pest risk assessment, biotechnology, laboratory diagnostics, transboundary animal diseases, and other aspects of animal and plant health.