WASHINGTON – Veterinarians and animal health technicians are needed to fill positions with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the US Dept. of Agriculture, the American Veterinary Medical Association reported. The talent search comes as the agency prepares to fight another round of highly pathogenic avian influenza.

USDA is hiring 90 veterinarians to one- and two-year appointments, while 201 animal health technicians are needed, according to AVMA. The temporary employees will help the agency prepare for the fall migration of wild birds and work with APHIS to respond to any H5N2 avian influenza outbreaks.

AVMA noted that APHIS is reviewing the National Animal Health Emergency Response Corp after the agency’s lackluster response to the most recent H5N2 outbreak that killed 48 million birds. The corps includes roughly 1,000 veterinarians and 3,000 animal health technicians who signed up for emergency duty. However, many individuals who signed up were unable to commit to the 21-day field assignments that APHIS requested.

In addition to hiring more animal health professionals APHIS and its state and industry partners are considering the potential use of vaccines to help prevent illness in birds and mitigate spread of the disease. APHIS issued a request for proposals for vaccine doses to equip the National Veterinary Stockpile. The agency also will publish an environmental assessment evaluating the potential environmental impacts of using vaccine in the event of an avian influenza outbreak.

APHIS has not approved the use of vaccine for HPAI, but the agency wants to stockpile vaccine should the decision be made to use it. APHIS is seeking to stockpile of vaccine for the Eurasian H5 (EA H5) virus strain that circulated in domestic poultry earlier this year.

APHIS’s environmental assessment will focus on approving vaccine use targeting EA H5 viruses or taking no action. Once published, the agency will open a 30-day public comment period.