Alberta Pork PED Alberta Pork Consumer Pork Produer
Signup for our NewsletterSignup for our NewsletterMessage Board
Foot-and-Mouth disease

Foot-and-Mouth disease - FMD (Fr.: fièvre aphteuse ) - the signs and modes of transmission

Foot-and-mouth disease is a viral infection that affects cloven-hoofed animals, mainly swine, cattle, sheep, goats and deer. The disease is not a significant pathogen for humans. Foot-and-mouth disease is a very contagious disease and the virus may survive for several weeks, even months, in favourable conditions.

The disease is characterized by fever and blisters in the mouth, on the teats and around the hooves. These lesions result in a reduction in food consumption, excessive salivation and significant lameness. Canada has been free from foot-and-mouth disease since 1952. The disease remains present in Africa and Asia . There are sporadic outbreaks in South America . It continues to be a threat to developed countries such as the outbreak in Europe in 2001. It is the most dreaded exotic disease due to its high contagion and its severe trade repercussions. Foot-and-mouth disease resembles two other diseases very closely - swine vesicular disease and vesicular stomatitis.

How Foot-and-Mouth disease is spread

The virus is spread by infected semen, embryos, animal feed and bedding and by people wearing contaminated clothes or footwear, using contaminated equipment, driving contaminated vehicles or using contaminated facilities. The virus may also be spread through the air. Many producers as well as federal and provincial government health officials are taking precautions at all levels. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has more information on how the disease is spread.

Canada and the threat of Foot & Mouth disease

This year brought great anxiety and concern to Canada 's livestock industry with the outbreak of Foot & Mouth Disease (FMD) in Europe . Foot & Mouth disease is caused by a virus that is very contagious and can spread quickly from farm to farm. Outbreaks due to FMD have been due mainly to spread of the virus by infected meat and animal by-products.

The real question for all of us is, "If we have an FMD outbreak, is Canada prepared?" Prior to the European outbreak in the spring, last November there was a tricountry (Canada , U.S. and Mexico) exercise simulating a disease outbreak. In Canada , the simulation was carried out in Ontario and Alberta . The situation clearly showed that we were not well-prepared and many things needed to be considered including disposal, compensation, possible zoning of the country, who has what authority, what role does the industry play, etc. Alberta Pork is an active participant in the continuing consultation process to better protect our industry.

Protecting Canada from foreign animal disease

The excellent health status that Canadian livestock enjoys is the envy of many countries throughout the world. This status is due in particular to a privileged geographic situation, strict control of live animal and animal product imports, skilled veterinarians and the enforcement of good sanitary practices by professional animal breeders.

The various provisions for preventing the introduction into Canada of diseases that flourish elsewhere in the world (exotic diseases) have turned out to be successful to date. However, Canada must be vigilant to prevent the potential introduction of one or more of these diseases.

Exotic diseases may provoke severe, even fatal signs in susceptible animals or be in milder forms which initially may be overlooked. Some diseases may affect several animal species and, in some cases, can even be transmitted from an animal to a human.

Because Canada is currently free of exotic diseases, Canadian producers and veterinarians are not necessarily experienced in their clinical signs. Consequently, in case of an outbreak, we must be careful that they are detected early, do not spread quickly and do not cause significant economic losses. Economic losses associated with exotic disease outbreaks may be tragic. Losses include both direct losses caused by these diseases (mortality, poor productivity, etc.), and more importantly the economically significant measures imposed to control them (animal slaughter and disposal, local and international trade barriers, etc). As a result of their international significance, these diseases require strict regulatory control measures at the local and national levels.