Veterinary Lab Expansion Could Be Crucial To Kentucky Health

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Agriculture, such as raising and selling livestock, ranks as Kentucky's number one industry bringing $4 billion to the state's economy every year.

However, animal diseases such as the Avian Flu can threaten both the lives of animals and humans in this area.

The Murray State University Breathitt Veterinary Center in Hopkinsville, Ky., has been working for years in the field of animal disease diagnostics to prevent such a disaster.

In the upcoming special session, it will ask Frankfort for a larger, updated facility to continue research.

There are more deadly animal diseases now than there were 40 years ago.

"... Foot-in-mouth disease which could be devastating to the nation's live-stock industry - or the new strain of Avian Influenza that we're very concerned about reaching the United States, that might not only affect Kentucky's poultry industry and our human population," said Dr. Wade Northington, of the Veterinary Center.

These high-impact diseases are the main focus of the work at the Breathitt Veterinary Center, the only animal diagnostic center in Western Kentucky.

However, their current 40,000 square foot facility is becoming too small.

"Kentucky doesn't have the animal diagnostic lab capacity to really react or respond to one of these high-impact diseases," Northington continued.

Dr. Northington said Kentuckians should be concerned because we are very much at risk of contracting these high-impact diseases.

This makes the expansion of the laboratory all the more important.

"We have tourists that go all over the world and come back here from countries that many of these diseases that we're concerned about. Our military is in these third world countries in places that could very easily introduce these diseases to the country," Northington said.

A new facility would provide the state with a biological safety suite that's needed to work hands-on with these airborne and pathogen diseases.

"These are more of what we call high-containment laboratories, built for that purpose of working with very dangerous organisms that may impact the nation at some point," Northington explained.

Officials at the Veterinary Center said the money for an upgrade is crucial to how Kentuckians are able to live 40 years from now.

The General Assembly will vote on whether to approve funding for the 50,000 square foot expansion when they meet this summer.

For more information on the Breathitt Veterinary Center, visit or click here.