Colorado State University Student Takes Key Role in International Health Issues in Armenia

A veterinary student in Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences is playing a key role in international health and trade. The student, Litto Suu, is helping to establish a national animal health program in Armenia along with Dr. Mo Salman, professor in the college and expert in international veterinary medicine affairs.

Salman and Suu, along with an Armenian and U.S. Department of Agriculture team members, tested animals in two villages, Aragatsavan and Nor Yer Znka, and then provided education to farmers there about the diseases that were present in their animals.

"Our goal is to establish sound and scientifically based national animal health program in Armenia that includes the food safety issues," Salman said. For the past 30 years, Salman has been traveling and sharing his expertise in countries throughout the world.

"Many of the farmers didn’t know that so many of their animals were infected with various diseases," Suu said. "By showing them the prevalence of these diseases in their animals, especially  brucellosis, we were able to provide them with context to the importance of preventative medicine in their herds."

The two diseases for which they tested in particular were foot-and-mouth disease and brucellosis. Brucellosis is a zoonotic disease, which means that humans can contract it from infected animals or animal products. Brucellosis is a disease that can cause spontaneous abortion in animals. Testing for brucellosis is especially important because of Armenia’s cheese production industry. When spread to humans, it causes remittent fever. If cheese is not pasteurized, which it often is not in rural Armenian villages, the disease can be passed from cheese to the humans who eat it.

The presence of foot-and-mouth disease in animals drastically limits a country’s trade options.

Suu had the opportunity to run two town hall meetings and provide the results, brochures about consumer awareness and the importance of preventative medicine to the surrounding community. The opportunity for a student to have this much involvement in an international program is rare.

"She was the best ambassador for CSU in Armenia," Salman said. He saw that she worked well with many types of people and had a determination and a willingness to learn that made her successful in Armenia.

"Although we can provide information to the villagers, the government must play a major role in controlling these diseases," Suu said.

Salman is the university’s point person for the cooperative agreement between Colorado State and the U.S. Department of Agriculture for this project in Armenia. Salman and the team of researchers also reached out to the Armenian government with information on animal health issues.

Salman hopes that Armenia will be able to trade animal and animal products nationally and internationally with less risk of spreading animal diseases, including those that can be transmitted to humans.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the USDA monitor food and drug safety, but Armenia does not have an equivalent to those organizations.

Suu found this opportunity to study abroad and apply her skills when she heard Salman speak. Suu, 23, is grateful for the opportunity to work in Armenia.

"She approached me after she listened to my campus wide presentation related to our international involvement," Salman said. "She was eager to be involved in international activities to increase her knowledge about veterinary medicine and its application in developing countries."

"Being able to work with the farmers and learn first-hand about epidemiology from Dr. Salman’s team in a foreign country that lacks strong disease control programs was a one-of-a-kind learning opportunity for me," Suu said. "I enjoyed being able to work with the local people and do work that related to my field."

Suu is originally from North East India in Nagaland. She has already completed her undergraduate studies at Colorado State, and she decided to attend Colorado State because of its renowned veterinary program.