Penn animal docs answer English SOS

Two Penn veterinarians are lending a hand in efforts to halt the foot-and-mouth disease crisis in the British Isles.

Research associates Linda Baker and Helen Aceto, who work at the New Bolton Center, the University’s large-animal hospital and teaching facility, left for England two weeks ago for a month of volunteer work to help overwhelmed British veterinarians cope with the fast-spreading disease.

“The dean [School of Veterinary Medicine Dean Alan M. Kelly] encouraged us to go as well,” said Linda Baker, shortly before her departure. “We’re both expecting it to be very busy.”

The two responded to an SOS sent by e-mail to veterinarians around the world and arranged the trip through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Baker said the British agriculture ministry would tell them when they get there where they would go and what they would do.

Back on campus, the disease has put New Bolton and the Veterinary Hospital (VHUP) on alert, said Helma Weeks, director of Vet School communications.

Invitations for a groundbreaking at New Bolton for an equine sports medicine building requested that people stay away if they had been in Britain in the last five days, Weeks said. New Bolton is enforcing that same five-day rule for all visitors, and VHUP a two-day rule. Both also require those who have been in Britain to launder all their clothes and disinfect their shoes before entering.

New Bolton has livestock susceptible to the disease, wheareas VHUP has no cloven-hoofed animals, Weeks said.

Animals at risk include all cloven-hoofed animals — pigs, cattle, goats, sheep, deer — as well as rats, hedgehogs and some zoo animals, including elephants, according to a School of Veterinary Medicine advisory on foot-and-mouth disease. “We have deer all over creation,” Weeks said of the United States. “If that organism got here and got into the deer population, what are you going to do then?”

While the two women waited for word on when they were to depart, Baker said, “It’s exciting in a way, but we recognize the emotional devastation. It’s hard to see the animals and the owners suffer.”


Originally published on April 19, 2001