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|1802 Hill Avenue
Spirit Lake, IA 51360
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Biological emergencies for rural communities can involve any number of infectious microorganisms. While there are hundreds of bacteria, viruses, fungi and other pathogens constantly present in our environment, many of which pose little threat, some of these organisms are of special concern, even of emergency priority, based on their ability to rapidly spread or cause severe disease in humans, animals or plants. Many can lead to large outbreaks or involve new (or emerging) pathogens that may be unfamiliar.
Diseases can be spread by any number of ways, including person-to-person, from the environment (air or contaminated surfaces), insects (e.g., mosquitoes and ticks), even animals (directly or food products). Contagious diseases are those that can be spread quickly and easily.
Pandemics involve any disease that is widespread and affects many people, in many countries around the world. There have historically been a number of pandemic situations, including smallpox, typhoid fever, and plague. In 2009, the world experienced its first influenza pandemic in more than 40 years. The new influenza virus strain (2009 H1N1) spread worldwide to more than 214 countries, resulted in substantial illness, hospitalizations and over 18,400 deaths. Infections in numerous animal species, including swine, turkeys, ferrets, cats and dogs also occurred.
Emerging diseases are another biological threat. This involves any newly discovered disease, or one that spreads to new or additional locations or different hosts, or increases in its occurrence. One example was the introduction of West Nile virus into the United States in 1999 and its subsequent spread across the nation in the years to follow. Others such as E. coli O157:H7, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (“mad cow disease”), and monkey pox have “emerged” within the last 25 years. Many of the recent emerging diseases are also considered zoonotic diseases – diseases of animals that can be transferred to humans – increasing the potential risk of disease for individuals in close contact with animals.
Animals can also be at risk to biological hazards. The increased globalization of trade and transport of animals between countries can lead to the unintentional import of “exotic” or foreign animal diseases – those that are believed to be absent from the United States.
Emerging diseases can also threaten our pets and livestock. The occurrence of any of these pathogens can have severe consequences, from the loss of naïve livestock or poultry populations to possible export restrictions or bans placed on animals or animal products by other countries. Crops are also susceptible to emerging or foreign pathogens, as well as pests or invasive species. The impact can have similar economic consequences.
This chapter will discuss some of the biological hazards or microbial threats to rural communities. Any of these situations have the potential to impact human or animal health as well as cause economic disruption for rural communities and businesses. However, planning ahead and implementing proper prevention can help to protect yourself, your family, your livestock and crops, and your business.