The latest outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the United Kingdom is a reminder to United States livestock producers of the importance of maintaining high standards of biosecurity. But it is not a major cause for alarm, says Iowa State University Extension Veterinarian Nolan Hartwig.
"The potential for foot-and-mouth disease to spread to the U.S. is negligible," he says. "But producers should observe normal biosecurity precautions and disease control procedures." Among other precautions, Hartwig recommends that livestock producers maintain a closed herd, and require visitors to wear clean clothing and disinfected or disposable plastic footwear.
Foot-and-mouth disease is a highly contagious viral disease of cloven (split) hoofed animals, including cattle, sheep, goats, swine and several species of wild mammals. It causes blisters in the mouth, on the tongue and on the feet of affected animals. Infection causes dramatic loss of weight, loss of appetite, decreased milk production, debilitation and poor performance, although mortality rates are low. It is not considered a human public health issue.
Not a human public health issue
The outbreak in a single feedlot in southern England was confirmed on August 2 by animal health authorities. Although the source of the outbreak has not been identified, there is concern that the virus may have escaped from a nearby British research laboratory or an animal health firm that produces foot-and-mouth vaccine. An investigation is under way and vigorous restrictions are in place on animal movement throughout the country.
Hartwig says several safeguards in place should protect the U.S. livestock industry. These include the U.S. ban on imported beef from the U.K., and regulations requiring that no one can enter a livestock operation in the U.S. within seven days of having contact with livestock or poultry in another country.
Hartwig can answer questions about the disease. Also, information about the current outbreak in the U.K. and regulations and safeguards in the U.S. and other information is online at www.vetmed.iastate.edu/the_college/default.aspx?id=3472