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State vets practice containing diseased livestock carcasses

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SALT LAKE CITY — State leaders from Utah and Idaho are training this week on how to handle major biological disasters focused not on people, but livestock.

A simple cow disease could cause big problems for the whole country. Foot and mouth disease, as it is called, is very contagious, and is lying dormant in potentially thousands of animal carcasses in Utah and Idaho.

"It's not just a disaster for agriculture," said Bruce King, Utah State veterinarian. "We'd have to shut down the whole valley.

King, along with other veterinarians, have been testing cows, in a simulated exercise, for foot and mouth disease by taking samples from animals that could be infected. Any infected animals would have to be destroyed.

"The air-curtain burner would circulate the air, so everything is contained right within the trench," said King.

King organized a three-day drill to make sure first- responders along the Utah-Idaho border will be ready. Idaho State Police were also checking for livestock crossing their border today. During an agricultural disaster, traffic could even become closed off at state and county lines.

"In meeting with these guys here today, it's been obvious that the potential can be horrific, and widespread," said Cache County Sheriff G. Lynn Nelson.

"You would basically be locking down this whole valley," King said.

While rare, King says disasters like this do happen. Containing the disease quickly would be crucial. Foot and mouth disease struck livestock in England back in 2001. About six-million animals had to be euthanized during that outbreak.

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Mike Anderson


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