Foreign Animal Diseases (FADs) are diseases that are not present in the US but pose a threat to animal health, and sometimes human health, if they enter the country. Some of them, such as Foot and Mouth Disease, would have a devastating impact on the agricultural economy if they gained a foothold in the country. It has been estimated that an outbreak of a FAD in North Carolina could infect 35 states in 10 days because of the movement of animals within the US farm and market system.
Both the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) maintain lists of animal disease pathogens that pose risks to animal and human health. Many, but not all of these organisms, are FAD agents.
The main protection against FADs entering the US is vigilance at the borders. This includes quarantine of live animals, inspection and source verification of meat and dairy products, and surveillance of migratory birds and other animals which could carry diseases into the US. The “beagle brigade,” specially trained dogs belonging to the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which sniffs luggage in airports for illegally-imported vegetable and animal products, is part of this system.
Veterinarians are trained in the recognition of FADs as part of their professional accreditation and are the first line of defense in recognizing an outbreak of an FAD. Veterinarians and livestock owners who suspect an FAD can contact any state or federal veterinarian. A veterinarian with specialized training in recognizing and diagnosing FADs, called a Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostician or FADD, will come out to investigate.