Veterinarians preparing for new role

May 13, 2004 at 7:21 PM

MANHATTAN, Kan., May 13 (UPI) -- Veterinarians are getting better prepared to be the first responders if animal diseases are ever used in a terrorist attack against the United States.

Dr. Ralph Richardson, dean of the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine, said students are getting more instruction in the classroom relevant to the potential threat of bio-terrorism to the public safety.

Richardson said today's veterinarian looks beyond the pet owner's dog or horse, or the farmers cow or hog. "We have more of a public practice awareness," he said.

In addition to classroom instruction, Kansas State is developing a system for veterinarians in the field to record symptoms of cattle on a central data base that can provide a two-day warning of a major regional outbreak of a disease like foot and mouth.

Dr. Robert Gates, the president of Texas A&M University, told graduating veterinarians in a recent speech they will be the first responders if the nation every faces a terrorist attack with animals diseases.

"Like firemen and police in a city under attack by bombs or hijacked airplanes, you likely will be the first on the scene," he told the 118 graduates at College Station.

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