Protecting Against Foot & Mouth Disease

Dr. Clell V. Bagley, D.V.M.
USU Extension Veterinarian

    Producers play an important role in protecting their animals against Foot (Hoof) and Mouth Disease (FMD), even though it is still a foreign animal disease. What is your role? To control the access of people, animals and products to your animals and operation. There are regulations and guidelines in place and advice is given to travelers which would usually prevent them from bringing the FMD virus into your operation. But these guidelines and regulations are NOT always followed by everyone. You can help protect against some of the regulatory “loopholes.”

    The access of non-employees to your animals can generally be controlled by fences / barriers, signs, and verbal questions used for screening. The fences and barriers help guide and control entry to a single area. Signs should instruct people not to enter unless authorized to do so, due to concerns for animal health. Questions for screening people can be relatively simple: Have you been out of the U.S. in the past two weeks?

No - the person should not be a threat in regard to FMD and could enter. Yes - then you need to find out what countries they have visited and when.

    The main current concern would be persons who had traveled to the United Kingdom within the past 14 days. But realize that almost three-fourths of the world has foot and mouth disease among its animals! It is endemic (always present in low levels) in most of South America, Asia and Africa. Columbia has three of the seven strains of the disease. Have you ever hired someone from South America to work for you? Which specific country were they from? Had they gone through a process to be sure they didn’t bring with them an unwanted guest, such as FMD virus? Realize that those persons are NOT a permanent threat. But if they are from an FMD area, you don’t want them to walk off the plane and directly into the middle of your animals! So, ask a few questions, take a few precautions and help all producers to be a little better protected from FMD.

If there is an outbreak in the U.S., what should animal producers do?

    Begin immediately with a “lock down” program. Do not let ANY animals, people, or products onto your place or near your animals unless you are sure what it is, where it came from, and have assurance from very reliable sources that it would be safe. Clean boots, clean clothes, showering and disinfectant foot baths can also reduce the risk from those persons who MUST enter. Animal products can be as great a threat as a person or animal.

If you suspect an outbreak of FMD in your own animals, what should you do?

    Immediately contact your veterinarian, who will in turn notify the State and/or Federal veterinarians. There are other diseases that look very much like FMD. These veterinarians conduct many investigations to check out potential FMD problems. They would collect some tissue samples and have an answer within 24 hours as to whether it was FMD. You should put up signs to block entry and keep all people and animals off your operation until you have a definite clearance from the State / Federal veterinarians.

(Editor’s note: For more about Foot and Mouth Disease, see the Web Site of the month on page 5).