K-State professors receive USDA grants to fight animal diseases

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MANHATTAN, Kan. (KSNT) – The U.S. Department of Agriculture is giving nearly a million dollars in grants to professors at Kansas State University in an effort to keep livestock healthy.

Jishu Shi is a professor of vaccine immunology, and one of three professors that were awarded a grant at the K-State College of Veterinary Medicine.

He’s getting more than $600,000 to try and find a vaccine for African Swine Fever.

“We have to prepare for the worst, so we need to develop a vaccine,” Shi said.

It’s a disease that hasn’t reached the U.S. but recently spread in China and has contributed to the deaths of millions of pigs.

“It doesn’t infect humans, however, it does affect people’s lives because people who are doing this for a living, the swine farmers, that could really affect their lives, and if the pork price changed, it could affect everybody,” Shi said.

Two other grants will focus on Foot-and-Mouth Disease in livestock.

It’s a disease that also isn’t in the country. But if it was, officials said animals like cattle and pigs would suffer and some would die. The export markets would also come to a halt.

Part of the money will pay for a computer program that will help experts know how to react if it does come here.

“Simulate certain interventions to try and stop it, and see which ones work best, and work best means how do we stop disease, but also how do we maintain the industries, the livestock industries so that we don’t do too much damage to them in controlling the disease,” Mike Sanderson, a professor in epidemiology said. “How might we detect it better, how might we vaccinate more effectively, how do we prevent it from ever even coming here, and then if it does, how do we control it,” Sanderson said.

Sanderson’s grant is for $176,900. Jürgen Richt, another professor received a $150,000 grant to work on Foot-and-Mouth Disease vaccines.

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