New York State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker today announced that his agency is closely monitoring an emerging animal disease situation in the United Kingdom. Foot-and mouth-disease (FMD), a highly contagious viral disease of cattle, sheep, swine, and other cloven-hooved animals, has been detected on a farm in Surrey, England.
"In response to the presence of foot-and-mouth disease in the U.K., we continue to work diligently to safeguard New York State’s valuable livestock population and the livelihoods of New York farm families," said Commissioner Hooker. "This being the height of fair season, we need the assistance of all New York citizens, whether exhibiting livestock or attending fairs as a visitor, to help by observing the precautions prescribed at these events to prevent the spread of all livestock diseases."
The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets is working cooperatively with its federal counterparts to prevent the introduction of FMD in New York State and is prepared to combat the disease, should it arrive here. At county fairs and the State Fair, we will be distributing flyers to livestock exhibitors that cover animal health considerations before, during and after the fair. Also, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets’ field staff will be on heightened alert for all signs of serious animal diseases.
FMD is not readily transmissible from animals to humans, but it does have serious implications for animal agriculture in countries where the disease is detected. Diminished productivity of infected animals, the suffering that infected animals endure, and trade restrictions resulting from the presence of FMD can cripple a nation’s agricultural economy, as was seen in the U.K. in 2001.
"The U.K. incident underscores the importance of being able to identify all premises with livestock," the Commissioner added. "FMD spreads quickly and can cause severe agricultural industry and economic hardships. In order to be prepared to prevent needless livestock losses should such an outbreak ever occur here, we must be able to rapidly detect the disease, trace its origins, and determine the extent of spread. With a fast moving disease such as FMD, having this ability can mean the difference between a localized animal disease incident and a statewide outbreak."
Currently, USDA has placed restrictions or prohibitions, depending on the type of product and level of processing, on all U.K. products derived from any FMD susceptible species. This includes any products already in route to the United States. All live ruminants and ruminant products were already prohibited due to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) concerns and now due to FMD in the U.K., pork and pork by-products are now also prohibited/restricted from being brought in from there.
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Agents have increased their scrutiny of travelers arriving from England, including asking about farm visits in England, inspecting footwear, and disinfecting shoes if necessary.
Although not necessarily fatal, FMD is highly transmissible and debilitates cloven-hoofed animals, such as cattle, swine and sheep, by causing vesicles, fluid filled blisters on their mouths, feet and udders. Other signs of FMD include fever, excessive salivation and lameness.
To date, there have been no confirmed cases of FMD in the United States since the last outbreak in 1929.
New York’s livestock industry makes up more than half of the state’s agricultural industry sales, contributing $1.6 billion to the state’s economy last year. New York State is home to more than 1.4 million cows, 36,000 hogs and 74,000 sheep, all of which are susceptible to FMD if it were introduced here in the United States.
Even though USDA and New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets continually work to keep out diseases such as FMD, New York farmers are always advised to protect their herds and flocks through good biosecurity practices such as minimizing visitors to animal husbandry areas, isolating new animal additions and insisting that farm service providers disinfect their boots when entering the farm.
As always, New York producers are encouraged to contact their veterinarian, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets’ Division of Animal Industry at 518-457-3502, or USDA APHIS Veterinary Services at 518-869-9007 if they spot signs in their animals that are consistent with FMD.