Foot-and-mouth disease a worldwide concern for livestock producers

Photo by Raluca Mateescu

Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD): it’s a serious concern in many parts of the world, and can spread rapidly through a herd of livestock, resulting in huge economic losses for producers.

In some areas, like much of North and Central America, Australia, New Zealand, Chile and parts of Europe, FMD hasn’t been a big problem for livestock producers for decades. For example, the U.S. eradicated the disease in 1929, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Preventing the reentry of FMD remains on the radar for many health officials, however.

In parts of Europe, Africa, South America and Asia, the highly contagious viral disease is still worrisome. Affected animals suffer with painful blisters in and around the mouth that eventually pop and turn into red areas called erosions. The pain from erosions can lead to other symptoms like depression, anorexia, lameness and reluctance to move around, as well as excess drooling. Fever is typical in FMD-affected animals, also.

FMD isn’t deadly to most animals, but affects the production of meat and milk. Typically cows, pigs, sheep, goats, deer and other cloven-hoofed animals are affected. Human infection is rare.

FMD is different from hand, foot and mouth disease, which is common in children and caused by a different virus.

Prevention and protection

According to USDA, FMD is one of the trickiest animal diseases to control, because livestock animals are so susceptible. One outbreak can spread quickly from animal to animal, farm to farm, and region to region. The agency estimates that a serious spread of the illness in a non-affected country could cost billions of dollars in just one year.

As with any disease, strong biosecurity efforts on the farm are essential for protecting animal health. This can include:

  • Routine cleaning with agricultural disinfectants that are proven effective in killing FMD-causing viruses.
  • Restricting visitor access to animals, especially visitors from FMD-impacted areas.
  • Documenting the movement of people, animals and equipment.
  • Making purchases from reputable suppliers.
  • Isolating new animals for at least two weeks before herd introduction.

Neogen is a provider of numerous animal safety solutions, including disinfectants proven to be able to kill off FMD-causing viruses.

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