Vets and pets play key role during disaster response
By Alex Branch
With no plan by emergency responders to account for household pets during rescues 12 years ago, many families refused to board helicopters, boats or buses without their beloved household pets.
That’s why this week about two dozen Texas A.M. University veterinarians and veterinarian technicians were deployed outside Houston, and evacuee shelters in Dallas and Fort Worth included carefully crafted plans to care for pets of people who fled Hurricane Harvey.
From preventing disease outbreaks among rescued animals to providing care for wounded household pets and search and rescue dogs, veterinarians today fill important roles in disaster response, said Katherine Fogelberg, DVM, PhD, Assistant Professor in the UNT Health Science Center School of Public Health.
“Research has shown that between 30 to 70 percent of people will not evacuate their homes without their household pets,” Dr. Fogelberg said. “Katrina revealed that the human-animal bond must be taken into account, especially during disasters that are expected to last for an extended time.”
Dr. Fogelberg, a member of the Society for Disaster Medicine and Public Health, had advocated for increased involvement of veterinarians during disaster response.
Just like when humans are housed together for long periods in tight quarters, sheltered animals are at high risk for disease outbreaks in shelters, such as influenza. The vaccine and health histories of many of the animals rescued during disasters are unknown, said Dr. Fogelberg, who recently was named the 2017 Public Health Veterinarian of the Year by the American Association of Food Safety and Public Health Veterinarians.
“Some diseases can pass from animals to humans so preventing those post-disaster disease outbreaks is a critical aspect of the public health response,” she said. “There also is a clear mental health benefit for evacuees who have lost their homes and possessions to know that their pets are safe and being properly cared for.”
Some obstacles prevent veterinarians from responding to disasters. For example, veterinarians are licensed to practice only in individual states and there is not a good system in place to allow them to practice temporarily in other states during disasters.
Next month, Dr. Fogelberg will speak at a meeting of the Society for Disaster Medicine and Public Health about the potential to further expand the roles of veterinarians in disaster response.
“There is a concept known as ‘One Health’ recognizing that the health of people is connected to the health of animals,” she said. “Veterinarians will continue to have a growing role in the response to disasters like Hurricane Harvey.”
The UNT Health Science Center will be closed for the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday and Friday, Nov. 23-24. Administrative offices will reopen at 8 a.m. Monday, Nov. 27. All clinics staffed by UNT Health providers also will be closed Nov. 23-24 in observance of the holiday. Regular clinic hours...Read more
Nov 22, 2017
By Jan Jarvis When he becomes a psychiatrist, Paresh Jaini does not want to rely solely on medication and psychotherapy to treat his patients. “I want to utilize lifestyle interventions as another treatment tool when approaching my patients with mental illness,” he said. “I want to c...Read more
Nov 21, 2017
By Sally Crocker Within two months of graduating from the UNTHSC School of Public Health, Harleen Singh (MHA ’16) began a highly selective administrative residency with Baylor Scott & White Health (BS&W), one of the largest not-for-profit health care systems in the United States. ...Read more
Nov 21, 2017
By Sally Crocker UNTHSC students, faculty and staff are invited to the 2nd Annual Zoonotic Disease Fair from noon to 3 p.m. on Nov. 21 to learn about some of the common diseases found in Texas that can be passed from animals to humans. “It pays to be aware,” said public health st...Read more
Nov 16, 2017