FMD Has Far-Reaching Effects Beyond the Animal Itself

US - In November, a suspicious leaking package found in a rural West Virginia dump known to be frequented by wild swine was thought to be a bioterrorist threat to the U.S. livestock industry. The package contained a dead fawn from Liberia, a country which has had foot-and-mouth disease, writes Shannon Ruckman, The Prairie Star.
calendar icon 22 January 2008
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“It's getting closer,” said Dr. Steve VanWie of Wisconsin, during the Foot-and-Mouth Disease Summit in Billings, Mont. “Foot-and-mouth disease is becoming a bioterrorist agent.”

Luckily, the decomposing fawn was not infected with foot-and-mouth disease, but other attempts to infect the United States with this highly contagious and destructive disease have been made. In January 2007, there was an incident in a airport where a man failed to claim a small vial in customs. The vial was found to contain the foot-and-mouth disease virus, and was destroyed even though the man claimed to be delivering the vial to Colorado for re-search. The claim was a lie, said VanWie.

Foot-and-mouth disease is caused by a single virus that is highly contagious and is transmitted through air, manure and milk.

Animals infected with foot-and-mouth disease suffer greatly as the skin on their tongues peel off and their hooves fall apart.

“You must kill them quickly and cleanly,” said VanWie, who assisted with the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in England in 2001. “Farmers (or ranchers) also suffer - it causes more than animal loss, but also three times the financial losses and sometimes the loss of farmers' lives.”

Sixty-two English farmers committed suicide after the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in 2001 because they had lost their livelihoods - their livestock - and they didn't know how to feed their families or pay their bills, said VanWie.

The United Kingdom's foot-and-mouth disease outbreak cost the country an estimated $14.5 billion. Yet, the entire country of England can be fit into a state about the size of Oregon, said VanWie.

Thus, the estimated financial losses would be much greater for the United States. In fact, the University of California Davis did a study on the costs of foot-and-mouth disease response in the United States and found it would cost between $6 and $14 billion in California alone, said Dr. Jose Diez of U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service.

Foot-and-mouth disease is a huge concern for the U.S. livestock industry because of the industry's unique transportation system and the need to depopulate the infected animals within 24 hours of infection, said VanWie. “I could care less about a 48-hour tracking ability - the traceability with the National Animal Identification System is only 40 percent,” he said. “I care more about identifying where the critters are. Hobby farms have to be included in the control area.”

According to Diez, the USDA APHIS foot-and-mouth response plan requires complete depopulation and disposal within 72 hours of identifying the premises of the infected animals.

For the full story The Prairie Star

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