PINEDALE - A task force created to help the state regain its brucellosis-free status should also look at how the cattle disease should be handled and even eradicated in Wyoming in the long term, Gov. Dave Freudenthal said.
Freudenthal urged the committee to develop a protocol to handle the next outbreak of brucellosis that will inevitably come, even after the state regains its brucellosis-free status.
"The issue bubbles under the surface all the time it's just a question of time before it flares up again," he said. "I can't emphasize enough - don't settle for a short-term strategy."
The most immediate task for the group is to find ways to ensure that Wyoming's federal brucellosis-free status is restored next February.
When two cattle herds in the state recently tested positive for the disease, which causes cattle to abort, the federal government imposed restrictions and testing requirements on Wyoming cattle being sent out of state. The state must not have any new cases for a year in order to regain its status as being free of the disease.
It is suspected that the cattle contracted the disease from wild elk.
Addressing the Wyoming Brucellosis Coordination Team during its first meeting Wednesday, Freudenthal said he was confident in the group's abilities to find short and long term solutions to the problem.
That includes looking at eradicating it from both wildlife and cattle if possible, he said.
The 19-member task force is made up of ranchers, sportsmen, conservationists, lawmakers, veterinarians and state officials.
Freudenthal suggested the group consider submitting preliminary recommendations to his office and to lawmakers after the November 2004 election and before the 2005 legislative session.
And he emphasized that the public must be included in the discussion.
"They understand the implications, whether their interest is in wildlife or in domestic livestock," Freudenthal said. "Don't ignore the citizens of the state. To get (your recommendations) implemented through the legislature, you've got to get people to understand what you're doing."
Wyoming lost its federal brucellosis-free status in February after the disease was discovered in cattle herds in Sublette and Washakie counties. Texas is the only other state that has not eliminated the disease from all cattle herds.
Brucellosis can cause cows to abort their first calves and can sometimes cause undulant fever in humans who work with infected animals or consume contaminated animal products such as unpasteurized milk.
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