INDIANAPOLIS — Although no cases of foot-and-mouth disease
have been found in the U.S. since 1929, making sure producers have biosecurity
measures in place to protect against a potential outbreak is just as important
Indiana State Veterinarian Bret Marsh noted that FMD is a
viral disease that is known as one of the most infectious in the world.
Once the disease enters a country, since it is quite
contagious, it will move rapidly through livestock herds, he said.
“If it should enter the U.S., there will be significant
economic losses in the livestock market,” he warned.
Marsh stressed that even though FMD hasn’t been reported in
America for several decades, if producers do not do their due diligence on their
operations now, the disease will have a greater potential to enter the
Currently, he said, South America and large portions of
Asia, along with sections of Africa, are battling the disease in their animal
herds, and four-fifths of the world actually is affected by it.
Marsh noted that, fortunately, there usually is not a lot of
mortality associated with the disease, but it is quite debilitating.
Livestock that become infected with it — which could be
cattle, goats, sheep and swine — will break out in lesions or blisters on their
tongue and claws or between their hooves or on their teats. “It’s debilitating.
Animals affected with lesions won’t eat,” the veterinarian said.
If FMD does enter the U.S., he added that global trade will
be impacted because it will be shut off to many parts of the world. That is why
it is important, Marsh emphasized, to find ways to keep up a better
understanding among producers of how the disease moves and being able to
determine with which strain of FMD an animal is infected.
He added that a vaccine against the virus can be an
instrumental tool to help reduce the number of infected animals if the disease
enters the state, but research and development of the drug cost a lot of
Marsh mentioned that the intent is for the vaccine to
provide cross protection against the multiple strains of FMD.
However, there is a drawback to the vaccine — if a herd does
become infected with FMD, vaccinated animals would have to be eliminated before
a producer can reestablish their livestock population. As of now, the official
noted, there would be no way to test whether an animal had the vaccine or a
strain of the virus.
He said although it still is a big issue, he is hopeful that
a way to tell the difference will be found and approved by the industry because
producers then will not have to cull animals in their herd that were never even
Even though people cannot get FMD from livestock, Marsh
mentioned that there have been procedures in place to protect against the virus
for a number of years, but the biggest thing a producer can do is monitor their
herds for any unusual behavior, such as not wanting to eat, and then call their
local veterinarian to come examine that animal.