Veterinary Epidemiologist at Colorado State University to Help Shape Foreign Policy

Foot-and-mouth disease might sound medieval, but the highly infectious livestock disease poses such a threat to modern global economies and food security that international agencies are on high alert for any sign of outbreak.

Many livestock experts think foot-and-mouth disease, which affects cattle, sheep and swine, is knocking at the door of the United States. Although the country has been free of the disease since 1929, experts are concerned about threat of epidemic – like the one that struck the United Kingdom in 2001, forcing the slaughter of 6 million animals.

That’s where Mo Salman, a highly regarded Colorado State University veterinary epidemiologist comes in.

Salman is an expert in tracking infectious animal disease and recommending prevention and response measures. He has been tapped for policy advice by the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Starting in August, Salman will serve a yearlong stint as a Jefferson Science Fellow in Washington, D.C., and will provide science-based insights on infectious animal diseases with critical implications for international economies, trade, biosecurity, and human health and well-being.

“Dr. Salman’s selection to participate in the prestigious Jefferson Science Fellows Program is a wonderful validation of his scientific stature and personal interest in solving global issues,” said Daniel Bush, CSU vice provost for faculty affairs.

Salman is a professor in the CSU College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and is founding director of the CSU Animal Population Health Institute. He is the first veterinarian selected for the program that draws on some of the nation’s best minds in science, engineering and medicine to shape U.S. foreign policy on a wide range of complex issues.

Salman is a leader in understanding animal plagues, such as avian flu and foot-and-mouth disease, that many U.S. residents might never consider. The pathogens that trigger these and other worrisome animal diseases often are more prevalent in developing countries, yet are important to the United States because of widespread impacts on people and economies.

Take foot-and-mouth disease. It does not infect people. But current livestock vaccines are problematic, so the disease remains a major concern in dozens of countries.

Outbreaks impact accessibility of animal protein and can be economically catastrophic, with reverberating effects on international trade, Salman noted.

When animals must be slaughtered to control disease, people in developing nations, especially, suffer from financial strain, hunger and other problems linked to food insecurity, he said.

“Animal protein is an essential part of our diets worldwide, whether it is in the form of dairy, eggs or meat,” Salman said. “In that context, we need to look at animal infectious disease as part of a comprehensive system that takes into account economic stability, human health, and the availability, accessibility and safety of our food supply.”

Salman said he is excited to provide a scientific perspective to federal policy discussions; he anticipates that his research and teaching will benefit from the experience when he returns to campus. He is among 13 academics in the 2013-14 class of Jefferson Science Fellows, who will report to the U.S. Secretary of State. The National Academies administers the prestigious program.

Inspired by President Thomas Jefferson, the program is meant to improve government policy by adding a healthy dose of scientific understanding. Salman is well-suited for the role, said Sue VandeWoude, associate dean for research and graduate education in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

“Dr. Salman is a leader in developing worldwide collaborations relating to livestock disease surveillance,” VandeWoude said. “His work has translated into policy and recommendations for disease control, and he is an effective trainer of veterinarians all over the globe. His selection as a Jefferson Science Fellow is a well-deserved honor.”

Salman is the third CSU faculty member to serve as a Jefferson Science Fellow. Marvin Paule, emeritus professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, served in 2007-08; and Rajiv Khosla, professor in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, served in 2012-13.