Sometimes I am asked why we should worry about foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in the US when we have been free of the disease since 1929. News reports, feature articles, and press releases circulating in recent months provide ample justification.
To illustrate, I have reprinted an abridged recent release from the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) below.
TAHC Officials Urge Awareness of Global Foot and Mouth Disease Threat
AUSTIN – The Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) reminds Texas producers, marketers and veterinarians that maintaining a Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) free U.S.A. requires constant awareness and vigilance. Anyone involved with livestock needs to recognize the general signs of FMD and how to report suspicious symptoms. FMD is not contagious to people, but the viral disease that affects cattle, hogs and otheris characterized by the presence of vesicles in the mouth, or on the muzzle, teats and feet. The FMD virus can accidentally be carried on people’s clothing, footwear and vehicles from one farm location to another.
“In today’s world where people travel and trade so much internationally, we need to remember that the introduction of FMD to Texas livestock is an ongoing threat. Producers should always be aware of who’s coming in contact with their livestock and where those people may have been previously,” said Dr. Dee Ellis, Texas’ State Veterinarian. The introduction of FMD would create severe economic and trade implications for Texas producers, added Dr. Ellis.
Vigilance and sound biosecurity practices are the best first-line of defense against FMD. Good practices include:
- Understanding the animal disease status of foreign countries when visiting farms or ranches
- Thorough cleaning and disinfection of footwear and other clothing after foreign travel
- Following USDA APHIS and US Customs & Border Patrol restrictions for import of animal products
- Controlling international visitor contact with Texas livestock species and agriculture facilities
FMD is present in a number of continents including South America, Africa and Asia, with recent outbreaks occurring in South Korea, Japan and Bulgaria. FMD was last diagnosed on U.S. soil in 1929.