Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is caused by a fast-spreading virus, and all cloven-footed animals are susceptible to the disease. Nearly 100% of the animals in an exposed herd will become ill, and young animals may die from the disease.
Cloven-footed animals include:
- domestic and wild (feral) swine
- captive and wild deer
What does FMD infection look like?
Blisters (vesicles) may form in the animal's mouth or muzzle, causing slobbering and drooling. Later, the blisters will break, forming raw patches or ulcers.
Blisters and sores also can develop on the animal's teats, causing mastitis in dairy cattle. Blisters on the feet result in lameness. Affected animals will be reluctant or unable to drink, eat or walk, and they will lose weight rapidly.
Swine and cattle usually will show signs of disease within two to seven day after being exposed to the virus. Sheep and goats may have only minimal clinical signs of disease after an incubation period of up to 14 days.
FMD Outbreaks Worldwide
Foot-and-mouth disease has been diagnosed in 34 countries during the past 18 months. The latest outbreaks have occurred in Great Britain, Northern Ireland, Argentina and France. The only continents currently free of the disease are North America, Australia and Antarctica.
Most of the affected countries are still battling FMD. Outbreaks disrupt animal industry, including the export of animals and animal products. Once infection is introduced, it is very difficult to prevent the spread to susceptible species, which include all cloven-footed animals.
How FMD is Spread
Foot-and-mouth disease can be transmitted in a variety of ways, the most common being direct contact with an infected animal.
Once infected, animals become "virus factories," capable of spreading high numbers of viral particles to other animals and into the environment. Infected swine, in particular, can release millions of viral particles when they exhale. The virus can become airborne and can be breathed in by nearby susceptible animals.
Persons who have been around infected animals also are capable of carrying the virus in their nasal passages for as long as 28 hours. While the disease is not considered to be a threat to humans, it's possible for a person to spread the virus to susceptible animals.
The disease also can be spread when susceptible animals come into contact with feed, feeding utensils, vehicles, clothing, or holding facilities that have been contaminated with the virus.
The FMD virus also can be carried in the raw meat, animal products or milk from FMD-exposed or infected animals. The FMD outbreaks in South Africa were started after wastefood containing raw meat scraps was collected from international ships and fed to swine.
Economic Impact of FMD
A single case of FMD would affect every segment of the U.S.' multi-billion dollar animal and animal product export market.
- Consumers can lose confidence in the safety of meat food products.
- Prohibitions would be placed on the sale and international shipment of animals and animal products.
- Eradication costs are very high. All animals exposed to the virus must be destroyed to prevent the spread of disease.
- Vaccines provide only temporary protection and revaccination is needed at six-month intervals. Vaccine use is limited to outbreaks only, and vaccinated animals must be slaughtered before international trade can be resumed.
- For at least three months after the eradication of an outbreak or at least three months after the slaughter of the last vaccinated animal an affected country is banned from shipping meat or meat products to international trading partners.
Keep FMD Out! Do YOUR Part!
The U.S. has regulations in place to prevent the introduction of FMD-infected animals and animal products. But...so did many of the currently affected countries!
- If you suspect a disease problem, report it immediately to your local veterinarian or regulatory animal health official. In the UK, the disease may have been present for three weeks prior to detection!
- FMD spreads fast! Early detection and reporting are critical. Don't move animals that may be affected! Stop all visitors from entering your premise, if you suspect a problem!
Traveling abroad? Take precautions
- Avoid contact with animals or areas where animals have been held for at least five days before returning to the U.S.
- Before returning to the U.S., launder or dry clean all clothing, jackets or coats.
- If you have visited a farm abroad, or if you've traveled and live, work or plan to visit a farm in the U.S., shower, shampoo, and change into clean clothing. Wash or dry clean clothes don't risk taking the FMD virus home on contaminated clothing.
- Remove all dirt or organic material from shoes, luggage, personal items, etc. Wipe the items with disinfectant.
- Don't bring prohibited products home.
- Avoid contact with livestock or wildlife for at least five days when you get home.
These products can be used effectively to disinfect for FMD:
- Sodium hydroxide (lye) solution (2 percent). Mix a 13-ounce can in five gallons of water.
- Sodium carbonate (soda ash) solution (4 percent). Mix one pound in three gallons of water.
- Citric acid 0.2 percent solution.
- Acetic acid (vinegar) 2 percent solution. Mix one gallon of vinegar (4 percent) in a gallon of water.
- Virkon S (Antec International) at a 1:200 dilution.
- Sodium Hypochlorite (household bleach). Mix three parts bleach to two parts water
Don't Stall! Call!
Report suspicious cases immediately! Call the USDA's Veterinary Services at (512) 916-5552 during normal working hours.
Additional information can be obtained from Texas Animal Health Commission Public Information Office at (512) 719-0710, or the USDA's Public Information Office at (301) 734-8073.
Also look to page 114 of the May 2001 Angus Journal for more information about how the USDA is implementing measures to prevent an FMD outbreak in the U.S.