Brucellosis-Free in 1998 didn't quite materialize, but the number of brucellosis-affected herds in the U.S. dropped to 46 last October. In 1957, it was 125,000.

Forty-two states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are now Class-Free. Mississippi is the most recent. Eight herds in seven states are Class A. Four of them have quarantined herds - Texas, Missouri, Florida, and South Dakota with a captive bison herd. Kansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma have no affected herds and are working toward Class-Free.

While the results are encouraging, U.S. Animal Health Association (USAHA) and Livestock Conservation Institute (LCI) officials warn of two challenges:

* Intensified surveillance to keep newly-infected herds at zero;

* Solving bison and free-ranging elk problems in the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA) and the Southeast as well as feral swine in other states.

"After Jan. 1, 1999, we need to treat the discovery of any new infected herd as a true emergency disease situation," says Brian Espe of USAHA.

USAHA and LCI officials have urged a three-way course of action:

* Get more factual information concerning the GYA problem;

* Have LCI prepare informative materials on the importance of continual quality surveillance;

* Search for additional funding for education efforts.

Two recent changes should relieve some of the pressure.

A new ruling will increase APHIS-financed indemnity payments, providing two reimbursement options to owners of cattle (including unweaned steers and captive bison) who agree to depopulate, says Valerie Ragan, USDA-APHIS senior staff veterinarian.

The first is by appraisal. The other is a fixed rate not to exceed $250 per animal for domestic bison and non-registered cattle other than dairy cattle, and $750 for registered cattle and non-registered dairy cattle.

USDA has also proposed an amendment to the brucellosis regulations allowing a state to retain Class-Free status following detection of a single affected herd. This is designed to ensure prompt resolution of isolated cases.