The U.S. has been free of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) since 1929, when the last of nine outbreaks was eradicated, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Last year, first hog cholera and then FMD struck England. The FMD outbreak, the first there since 1967, has resulted in more than a thousand cases of the highly contagious virus. It has since been reported in Ireland, France and the Netherlands, and new cases also have been reported in Argentina. Various types of FMD virus are endemic in Africa, South America, Asia and parts of Europe.
The disease is characterized by fever-like blisters on the tongue and lips, in the mouth, on the teats and between the hooves of cattle, swine, sheep, goats, deer and other cloven-hoofed animals.
Although not fatal, due to its rapid spread and debilitating effects, FMD has grave economic consequences. USDA estimates that if FMD were to spread in the U.S. unchecked, the economic impact could reach into the billions of dollars in the first year.
An outbreak of hog cholera in the Netherlands in 1997 resulted in 8 million hogs being destroyed at a cost of $2.3 billion. Also in 1997, an outbreak of FMD in Taiwan caused some 4 million hogs to be destroyed at a cost of billions of dollars.
For additional information on FMD, contact USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) at (301) 734-8073. To reach the APHIS Emergency Operations Center, call (800) 940-6524 or e-mail [email protected].
Sanitation is one key aspect in stopping the FMD virus at ports and other points of entry and in slowing outbreaks. Virkon S, manufactured and sold by Antec International, United Kingdom (U.K.), and distributed in the U.S. by Farnam Livestock Products, is the only farm disinfectant registered with the Environmental Protection Agency with a label claim against FMD.
Sean Egan of Farnam, Phoenix, AZ, says that USDA inspectors in international airports such as O'Hare in Chicago were using bleach to disinfect shoes but have switched to Virkon S.
“Bleach is not as effective on soiled items because it is inactivated by organic material,” he says.
Virkon S works to inactivate the virus and is easier on your shoes, Egan says. Tests in pigs and poultry operations have shown the product also will kill viruses without removal of organic material, though cleaning before disinfecting is strongly recommended, says Egan.
Virkon S is now being used at some major U.S. ports of entry and is regularly used at USDA's Plum Island animal testing facility.
Egan reports that earlier in the fight against FMD there were some product shortages in the U.K.. The manufacturer is now on a 24-hour production cycle and has even contracted out some production. Earlier this year, the company reported it had about 160 tons of product in inventory and another 40 tons in the pipeline.
Virkon S is a powdered concentrate that is diluted in water to produce a 1% solution. It is a broad-spectrum disinfectant that is effective against more than 38 viruses, including major hog disease viruses. Retail cost is about $75 for 10 lb., which will make about 123 gal. of disinfectant.