By now, you’ve likely heard of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), a disease known for being extremely contagious and extremely severe. In the news right now, FMD strikes panic in the Canadian beef industry. That’s why it’s key that each and every one of us does our part to prevent the introduction of FMD into our Canadian cattle herd.
Fast Facts About FMD
- Occurs in livestock and wildlife with cloven hooves – cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, bison, elk, deer, wild boars, etc.
- Many animals recover, but are left in a weak state
- Found in 77% of the global livestock population – Africa, Middle East, Asia, and some parts of South America
- Spread by contact with bodily fluids from affected animals, contaminated animal products, food, feed, equipment, clothing, footwear, or hands
- Can be spread long distances by the airborne virus
- Humans can carry the virus for up to 36 hours in the throat
- There is no treatment
Signs of FMD in Cattle
- Sores and then blisters/ulcers on feet, nose, mouth, udder, scrotum
- Excessive saliva and drooling
- Lack of desire to move
- Low appetite
- Reduced milk yield
- Loss of body condition
- Occasional abortions
What to Do If You Suspect a Case of FMD
FMD is a reportable disease and must be reported to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Whether a case is suspected or confirmed, report it to the chief veterinary office in your province within 24 hours.
Tips for Travellers
- Declare all meat and other animal products brought into Canada (includes semen, embryos, and hides)
- If coming from a country with FMD, avoid farms, parks, zoos, feed mills, equipment, and livestock for 14 days
- If you must come into contact with an above area:
- Clean and disinfect footwear, or ideally, dispose of footwear worn abroad
- Dry clean clothing worn abroad
- Thoroughly shower and clean under fingernails
- Disinfect all personal belongings
- Follow all biosecurity procedures at the facility
- If you live on a farm, avoid going home for 36 hours by staying at an alternative residence where someone can bring you clean clothing and footwear to wear home
What Happens If FMD Reaches Canada
If FMD was identified in Canada, the CFIA would identify exposed premises, cull exposed and high-risk potentially exposed livestock, and decontaminate the environment. Disposal would occur by incineration or burial.
The Canadian beef industry is continually advocating for the development of an FMD vaccine bank. However, routine FMD vaccination is not allowed in Canada for several reasons. Primarily, routine blood tests cannot distinguish vaccinated animals from infected ones, making vaccinated livestock ineligible for export with Canada’s trading partners. If Canada did widely vaccinate, we would lose “FMD-free without vaccination” status. Many of Canada’s trading partners, including the US, restrict imports from countries that vaccinate for FMD, even for animals that are proven to not carry the virus.
However, if prevention and disease control fail, Canada may vaccinate for FMD to reduce widespread culling. To regain “FMD-free without vaccination” status, Canada would have to wait 3 months after the last case, or in the case of vaccination, 3 months after the slaughter of the last vaccinated animal.
If widespread culling occurs, producers will be compensated for the market value of their lost animals.
Tips for Preventing FMD Introduction to Your Farm
- Prevent visitors from accessing your livestock
- Prevent livestock contact with wildlife
- Regularly disinfect footwear, clothing, and equipment
- Keep records of people, livestock, feed, supplies, and equipment moving on and off your farm
- Keep new animals separate for an initial quarantine period (at least 5 days)