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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Why We Do What We Do
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Why Is Our Plum Island Work Important to You?

Front entrance of main facility, Building 100Foreign animal diseases could pose a serious threat if they were to infect American livestock.

Consider foot-and-mouth disease of cattle: Controlling a single outbreak in this country could cost millions of dollars.

If foot-and-mouth disease became established—

  • It would shrink our $11.5 billion export market for animals, meat and other and animal products in countries that are free of the disease.
  • Food prices could rise at the supermarket as producers tried to recoup their own losses.
  • Hundreds of thousands of cattle, swine, deer and other animals might have to be slaughtered.

In the decade after World War II, outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease in Mexico and Canada led Congress to establish the Plum Island Animal Disease Center to keep America safe, but ready for the worst scenario—the introduction of this or other potentially devastating foreign animal diseases.

The center is the only place in the country where certain highly infectious foreign animal diseases are studied, such as foot-and-mouth disease. Our job is to keep these diseases out, by finding quicker ways to diagnose them and by developing vaccines and other veterinary treatments.


Last Modified: 7/16/2004