Should a flu pandemic ever hit the Yukon, it’s chief medical officer Brendan Hanley’s job to figure out what to do.
But what if our dogs start dropping dead from parvovirus? Our ravens start keeling over from avian flu? Our deer are wiped out by chronic wasting disease?
“A chief veterinary officer,” will now handle such things.
For $320,000, the Yukon will get one chief veterinary officer and a technical support staff, ready to maintain tabs on animal disease and keep “wild and domestic animal populations healthy and viable,” according to a Department of Environment release issued on Tuesday.
Monitoring animal health is closely linked with ensuring good human health, as any Black Plague or SARS victim would eagerly tell you - if they could.
“There’s a lot of issues where there is a common interest between the animal world and the human world,” said Hanley.
When it comes to something like “rabies surveillance,” having a direct line to a veterinary expert can be critical, he said.
Just to the south, BC’s chief veterinary officer has been busy managing mysterious outbreaks of avian flu in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley.
Among other Canadian jurisdictions, the Yukon is a latecomer to the chief veterinary officer initiative.
Hiring a veterinarian-in-chief has been a long time coming, said Hanley.
A standing body of animal health watchdogs is particularly useful for the territory’s increase in domestic “animal food sources.”
With global warming, every year sees more cows and sheep introduced to Yukon farms.
Should a livestock epidemic, like mad cow disease, be allowed to sweep in unchecked, the economic effects could be devastating.
A chief veterinary officer “improves our ability to support the production of Yukon-grown food,” said Brad Cathers, minister of Energy, Mines and Resources.
Warming temperatures may spur agriculture, but it also threatens the Yukon’s wild beasts.
Among other threats, West Nile virus and winter ticks are trekking north and without proper management an ecological catastrophe could catch us unprepared.
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