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News Release

CountryDateRelease Date

United States

November 24 1999


PARA attends USAHA 1999 meeting

PARA Executive Director addresses Johne's disease groups

At the 1999 United States Animal Health Association (USAHA) annual meeting, held in San Diego California, October 7 to 14, Karen Meyer, Executive Director of PARA, Inc. first addressed the National Johne's Working Group and later the Johne's Disease Committee to present to these two groups the latest news about activity on the human health side regarding the possible link between Crohn's disease and Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis infection.

In her address, Mrs. Meyer thanked the National Johne's Working Group and the Johne's Disease Committee for the efforts they had made in attempting to control Johne's Disease, making special mention of the recent educational brochure prepared by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

She told those assembled that the United States was being left behind in the worldwide race to eradicate Johne's Disease from the herds. "Those who are forward thinkers have realized that the NJWG isn't going to get them out of this mess --the Johne's Disease Committee isn't going to get them out of this mess -- and the Government isn't going to get them out of it, either. It's not the Government's responsibility, and the sooner you realize that, the better off you will be. You producers are at a place where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. Like us, you are the ones who have so much to lose."

She challenged dairy producers to become more proactive. "If there are organizations you have been relying on for your information and to protect your interests, they have failed you miserably. Perhaps now's the time to form a producer-based organization that will protect you, the producer. Where would you dairy producers be if overnight there came a directive from the processors that they would only accept milk from test-negative herds or test-negative cows?"

Mrs. Meyer reviewed recent events of significance, chief among them being the National Institutes of Health initiative regarding Crohn's disease research, the interest expressed by the Center for Disease Control, and the announcement of the world's first controlled study of anti-MAP drug treatment for Crohn's disease patients being conducted in Australia.

She also related a recent finding by researchers that identified MAP in human breast milk taken from lactating Crohn's disease patients.

Comparing the Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis-Crohn's disease link, she compared it to an approaching category 5 hurricane. "When the winds of public debate hit, will you be ready? When millions of Crohn's patients ask questions, will you have answers that will satisfy them as to whether their disease was preventable? When accountability issues arise, will you be able to confidently rely on your actions to protect you from legal liability and/or ethics violations?"

Karen concluded her speech with two examples of the human side of Crohn's disease and its cost in human suffering -- heartbreaking messages from mothers. "One thing that struck me in these two messages is the brave front these mothers are putting up. They are trying to keep their emotions in control so that they can ask coherent questions. What is not apparent in these messages is the horror they experience as they watch their children suffer. What is not apparent are the sleepless nights where they cry out to God to spare their child and take them instead."

After Mrs. Meyer's presentation to the Johne's Disease Committee, one veterinarian commented, "It looks like we'd better go buy some plywood."

Johne's Disease in U.S. dairy herds

Despite the efforts of some States' departments of Agriculture and despite the time and effort that members of the Johne's Disease Committee and the National Johne's working group have invested, Johne's Disease is evidently not on the decline in U.S. dairy herds.

Control efforts are emphasizing education as a first step. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association prepared a comprehensive brochure to help in the education process for both dairy and beef producers, and have given away 50,000 copies. USDA and some States' Agriculture Departments are attempting to educate producers to the economic benefits of controlling Johne's Disease in their herds, and showing management and sanitation techniques to be used to clean up a farm. However, education programs are only voluntary.

Wisconsin, with a herd infection rate of 60 to 70 percent, is moving to control the disease through voluntary means, using educational strategies and a herd certification plan developed by a subcommittee of the National Johne's Working Group. Like many states, Wisconsin is hoping that these programs will encourage the marketplace to provide the necessary incentives to get farmers to clean up their herds.

The problem of reliable tests for Johne's Disease is still an issue. The tests presently used are themselves not 100 percent accurate, and laboratories vary in their ability to successfully process the tests. And a few dairy farmers use that unreliability as an excuse to avoid testing their herds.

It appears that the problem of Johne's Disease, even though widespread in dairy herds, hasn't hit the producers hard enough in their pocketbook yet to prod them into large-scale action to clean up the herds.

This year, some members of the Johne's Working Group and the Johne's Disease Committee expressed frustration with the fact that they have put in so much time and effort into their work over the past five years, and so little is actually changing. When asked how long it would take to clean up the herds if suddenly no milk from Johne's-positive cows could be sold, one Committee member said, "About six months."

Milk and beef testing resolutions rescinded

PARA submitted two resolutions to the Johne's Disease Committee: A resolution recommending the testing of retail milk and milk products for the presence of live MAP, and a resolution recommending research to determine what cooking temperature is needed to reliably kill MAP in ground beef. These resolutions were the same ones that were submitted in 1998. Last year the milk resolution was voted down overwhelmingly, and the beef resolution passed on a very close vote. This year was quite different: Both resolutions passed unanimously.

But resolutions must survive the vote of the entire USAHA membership present at the final meeting to become ratified. On October 19, these two resolutions were rejected. The reason cited for this action: "During the discussions of these resolutions, there was much concern about the feasibility of end-product testing of milk and meat for an organism that science has not confirmed as being the cause of Crohn's in humans, and the usage of this information."

In the opinion of PARA, as expressed in a letter to USAHA President-elect Dr. B.R. Hillman, "...this statement presents USAHA as not only primarily self-serving, but further, is blatantly contemptuous of both its own member producers and the American public." The letter concludes, "We at PARA are saddened that USAHA has chosen to be part of the problem rather than part of the solution."


Full text of Karen Meyer's speech

1999 Report of the Johne's Disease Committee of USAHAExternal link indicator (which also includes the full text of Karen Meyer's address)

For further information contact

ContactKaren Meyer
Executive Director, Paratuberculosis Awareness and Research Association, Inc.

Paratuberculosis Awareness and Research Association, Inc.

is a non-profit organization of Crohn's disease patients, their families and friends who are dedicated to the following goals:
  1. To raise awareness of the zoonotic (disease-causing) potential of the bacterium, MAP, in the national community of sufferers of Crohn's disease, in medical, veterinary and food science research communities, in governmental agencies and in the public in general
  2. To urge governmental agencies to directly address control and eventual eradication of MAP from the human environment, particularly from foods of animal origin
  3. To urge governmental and medical research agencies to make funding available for research which will determine the role played by MAP in causing Crohn's disease

Paratuberculosis Awareness and Research Association, Inc.
Box 16219
Temple Terrace, FL 33687-6219

Source:   Contact PARA:
Paratuberculosis Awareness & Research Association