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Total financing for the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine's new Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory must be provided by the Iowa Legislature.

Today, the most feared animal disease in the world is African swine fever. The disease has a mortality (death loss) rate of close to 100 percent. The African swine fever virus is highly transmissable, and even though the disease has been recognized in Asia and Europe in wild boars for nearl`y 100 years, it has only been feared in the last two decades. At present, there is no vaccine available. For the disease to be brought under control, it is essential that diagnostic facilities that are up to date and current in today's highly technical and fast-paced world be available and staffed with well-trained veterinary diagnosticians. To control this disease, the diagnosticians must be capable of making quick and accurate decisions and the diagnosis must not be confused with many other diseases that affect swine.

It is important that residents of Iowa realize the National Animal Disease Laboratory and the College of Veterinary Medicine Diagnostic Laboratory are both located in Ames, making that location the centerpiece in the world for animal health diagnostics and veterinary care. The National Animal Disease Laboratory houses in excess of 7,000 animals under observation for a multitude of diagnostic investigative circumstances. The College of Veterinary Medicine is home to the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory that is providing diagnostics around the state of Iowa and all over the United States, and it receives tissues for study and diagnostics from around the world.

In today's fuzzy financial world, the University of Iowa receives $3.8 billion for its budget and has 33,106 students. Iowa State University has 36,821 students and receives $1.4 billion from the Legislature. The Iowa Legislature decided to cut deeper at Iowa State College of Veterinary Medicine Diagnostic Laboratory reconstruction and, in doing so, reduced the projected funds for a badly needed new laboratory from the originally proposed $140 million to only $60 million. It would seem that in the high pressure world to diagnose quickly and accurately swine diseases that the Legislature might have doubled the contribution for a new laboratory, instead of cutting the original proposal by 60 percent.

Politics seemed to enter the picture in providing the funds for the new laboratory that is needed to help keep animals healthy in the United States. This information can actually keep foreign diseases in animals from being transported either accidentally or intentionally by our enemies.

Most important, the Chinese produce 430 million pigs a year for their consumption and the United States produces 140 million pigs per year. Right now in China, there is a huge outbreak of African swine fever and a very new outbreak of hoof and mouth disease. Veterinary medicine care and diagnostics have kept these diseases out of the United States, but right now we need the originally planned diagnostic laboratory reconstruction to keep these and other foreign diseases out completely. Because of the exceptionally high death loss of animals in African swine fever, it is being projected that the outbreak in China could result in a $1 trillion loss for the Chinese economy before the disease is under control.

Please contact your state legislators and encourage them to elevate the funds for the laboratory at Iowa State. The world looks to ISU for guidance in establishing disease diagnostics and providing leadership in treatment regimens.

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J. Kenneth Roach is a Sioux City doctor of veterinary medicine.


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