Foot And Mouth Disease (FMD)
Foot And Mouth Disease
Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is a highly contagious animal disease that would have severe consequences were it to be introduced into Australia. There have been a number of outbreaks in FMD-free countries that have had large socio-economic impacts. The 2001 outbreak in the United Kingdom caused losses of more than 8 billion pounds (approximately $AUD 19 billion).
Australia estimates that a small FMD outbreak , controlled in 3 months, could cost around $AUD 7.1 billion, while a large 12 month outbreak would cost $AUD 16 billion. To manage the risk, both government and industry engage in significant prevention, planning and preparedness. Australia also maintains a strong Biosecurity program at the border to manage FMD risks, and also undertakes extensive planning and preparedness activities to ensure that should an incursion occur, the disease can be contained and controlled as quickly as possible.
What Is Foot-And-Mouth Disease?
Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is a highly contagious virus disease of animals. It is one of the most serious livestock diseases. It affects cloven-hoofed animals (those with divided hoofs), including cattle, buffalo, camels, sheep, goats, deer and pigs. It is found in many parts of the world, and has been reported in countries in Africa, the Middles East, Asia and South America. While it can cause serious production losses the most significant impact of the disease occurs because of its effect on trade in livestock and livestock products. Countries without the disease, which include many of Australia’s major trading partners do not import from, or severely restrict imports from FMD-infected countries.
There are seven serotypes of the virus: A, O, C, SAT1, SAT2, SAT3 and Asia1. These are further subdivided into more than 60 strains. The importance of these serotypes is that protection against one serotype (e.g. through vaccination) will not protect against infection with another serotype. Different serotypes dominate in different parts of the world.
What Species Are Affected?
FMD affects cloven-hoofed animals (those with divided hoofs), including cattle, buffalo, camels, sheep, goats, deer and pigs.
How Is It Transmitted?
FMD is a viral disease that spreads rapidly between animals. Virus is excreted in breath, saliva, mucus, milk and faeces. The virus can be excreted by animals for up to four days before clinical signs appear. Animals can become infected through inhalation, ingestion and direct contact. The disease spreads most commonly through the movement of infected animals. In sheep the symptoms can be absent or very mild, and undetected infected sheep can be an important source of infection.
FMD virus can also be spread on wool, hair, grass or straw; by the wind; or by mud or manure sticking to footwear, clothing, livestock equipment or vehicle tyres. Pigs are regarded as ‘amplifying hosts’ because they can excrete very large quantities of the virus in their exhaled breath. Cattle are very susceptible to, and able to be infected by breathing in small quantities of the virus. In some animals (‘carriers’), the virus can continue to be carried for long periods (months or years) after apparent recovery.
How Infectious Is It?
FMD spreads rapidly from one animal to another, especially in cool, damp climates and/or when animals are penned or housed closely together. The virus survives well at temperatures below 4 degrees Celsius, but is inactivated as temperatures rise. It is also rapidly inactivated at relative humidity less than 60 per cent.
Where Is The Disease Found?
It is reported in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and South America. Different strains of virus tend to dominate in different parts of the globe. Most recently, the outbreaks in Japan and Korea were due to FMD serotype O virus.
Is There Any Treatment Or Cure?
No. Vaccination is used in many countries to control the disease in an endemic situation. In order for a country to regain FMD-free status and limit the economic impacts, it is important to eradicate the virus as quickly as possible. Movement controls and removal of infected animals (along with other complementary control measures such as cleaning and disinfection) are essential to eradicate this disease. Vaccination can be an important tool to assist in containing and eradicating FMD.
Is Australia Prepared To Handle This Disease?
Australia has an internationally recognised capability to deal quickly and effectively with emergency animal disease outbreaks. Australia has in place detailed contingency plans and a comprehensive whole-of-government approach to managing animal health emergencies that are designed to ensure that resources from a wide range of agencies are available. DAFF collaborates with the states and territory authorities to coordinate national responses to animal health emergencies.
Does FMD Affect Humans?
Human infections have been reported but they are very rare and do not result in serious disease. Humans can carry the virus in their nose for up to 24 hours and can be a source of infection for animals. FMD in livestock is not a threat to human health.