Foot-and-mouth disease poses a threat to the United States because of the high volume of traffic between Europe and the United States, says a University of Georgia expert.
The latest outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease began in
and threatens much of Europe. The disease rarely harms
but humans can transport the disease.
Because of this, the European outbreak has been the cause of
concern in the United States, said Ronnie Silcox, an Extension
Service animal scientist with the UGA College of Agricultural
and Environmental Sciences.
Foot-and-mouth disease has been a problem in many parts of the
world for many years, Silcox said. Outbreaks have been reported
in South America, Asia and Africa. Because the outbreaks were
in less developed parts of the world, though, the spread of the
disease was limited.
The United States has not had a case of foot-and-mouth disease
Disease Harsh, Not
But the disease is highly contagious. It affects any
animal. The greatest economic threat comes from infected
such as cattle, hogs and sheep.
Initially, the disease has a harsh effect on the animal. It runs
a high temperature and develops blisters around the mouth and
tongue and on the hooves, Silcox said. The animal doesn't eat
because of the blisters in the mouth.
"The big thing you'd see with this disease is that the
will lose weight," Silcox said. "And in dairy cattle,
milk production drops tremendously. It can take several months
for the animal to regain the weight.
The dairy cattle may never return to production levels reached
before the disease, Silcox said.
Foot-and-mouth disease isn't normally fatal, but it can cause
death in very young animals. The disease usually runs its course
in two to three weeks, Silcox said.
When an animal becomes infected, though, it runs a higher risk
of catching another illness, he said. Female animals also have
a higher risk of abortions.
Though the disease is highly contagious, the virus that causes
it is fragile, Silcox said. It can't stand a range of conditions.
Heat, for instance, easily kills the virus.
"It would be a terrible disease if it got started in the
United States because it has such a serious impact on the
Silcox said. "Because of this, regulations on imports and
the handling of products from countries with confirmed cases have
been in place in the United States for years. We're pretty
about what we bring into the country."
To protect the United States from this latest outbreak of
disease, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has banned imports
of farm products from Europe that may transmit the disease.
has also been heightened on travelers and cargo coming from
"If you're doing any international traveling," Silcox
said, "don't bring any agricultural products into the
For further information on foot-and-mouth disease, call the USDA
at 1-800-601-9327. Or check the Internet at (www.aphis.usda.gov).
Published on 03/28/01
Foot-and-mouth a Threat to U.S. Livestock
Brad Haire is the former news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
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