Foot and Mouth Disease

FMD Increased Vigilance (2001)

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To: Canadian Animal Consultative Committee and Food Industry Organizations

Subject: FMD Increased Vigilance - Update March 15, 2001

On behalf of Dr. Brian Evans, Executive Director, Animal Products Directorate, please see the following update the FMD situation in the EU and CFIA measures to reduce the risk of introduction. Status of FMD in Europe Since February 19, the United Kingdom has been experiencing a nationwide outbreak of FMD. On March 13, FMD reached Continental Europe with confirmation of a case in North Western France, the first case in that country since 1981. Suspect cases have been identified in Germany and Italy but have not been confirmed. For additional information see: www.pighealth.com.

The FMD outbreak in the UK prompted the European Union to announce a ban on all British animal, meat and milk exports. The concern is that meat or animal products infected with this virus, or raw, or improperly cooked food products containing infected meat or animal products could be fed to susceptible animals.

Restrictions on animals and animal products from France were also announced by the European commission on March 13 on a regionalised basis.

Argentina has also confirmed an outbreak on March 13, but it is a different strain of virus and relates to their previous outbreak in August 2000 associated with the illegal importation of animals from Paraguay. A Canada/US team is scheduled to visit Argentina in late March to assess the situation. Import controls are in place until further notice.

The Office international des épizooties (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) are concerned that the emerging strains of FMD have a large potential to become global pandemics.

The CFIA has increased its domestic controls and has also implemented enhanced measures to further increase vigilance against the introduction of FMD.

Suspension of imports On March 13, the CFIA suspended until further notice all import permits from European Union (EU) countries and Argentina for susceptible products.

Suspended products include susceptible live animals, embryos, semen, meat and other animal products such as unpasteurized milk and cheese products. Processed dairy products are permitted with appropriate treatment (e.g. heat or PH adjustment).

See attachments: Milk, Regulated Milk Products and Dairy Products - AH: Import Procedures (March 13), and List of restricted commodities from a country infected with foot and mouth disease.

The CFIA will review this decision in 14 days following an assessment of the situation in Europe. Over 90 countries including the United States, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland, and Norway have taken the same or similar action.

Canada already has suspended live ruminant animals, beef and beef products from any country that is not certified as free of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

As a precaution the CFIA is also investigating whether there are any import permits that have been issued but not used, as well as tracing any products that have entered Canada. The suspension of import permits and tracking of products that have entered the country will remain in effect until further notice.

Inspection measures at airports and seaports

There is increased surveillance of passengers and baggage arriving on international flights. Travellers on flights originating outside the U.S., whether the flight is direct or in transit through the U.S., are being referred to customs secondary inspection or to the CFIA for further processing.

Disinfectant footbaths or soaked footmats have been installed at all 14 international airports. CFIA's detector dog activity is also targeted to international flights.

Compliance investigations for the handling and disposal of international garbage at airports and seaports have been increased.

DND has developed, in cooperation with the CFIA, a national directive on biosecurity measures for incoming personnel and equipment. The entry of vehicles that have been in use in the united kingdom has been suspended pending stabilization of the outbreak. This is being kept under review.

Technical assistance to the UK

On March 7, the first of two contingents of Canadian emergency response personnel were deployed to the united kingdom, each for a period of three weeks. The purpose is to increase on-site intelligence gathering and to provide containment/eradication assistance.


The CFIA has launched into a high profile response mode to deal with the media and has developed specialized communications products such as information for travellers handout and signage at airports.

CFIA is liaising with industry groups, the Canadian veterinary medical association and health Canada in coordinating communications materials for information to veterinarians, producers, and the public, including Website information and a toll free number 1-877-227-0677.

Additional information will be provided as it becomes available.

Christianne Ranger
Directorate coordination/coordination à la direction
Animal products directorate/direction des produits animaux
Tel: 613-225-2342 ext. 4644
Fax: 613-228-6631
E-mail: cranger@em.agr.ca

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Foot And Mouth Disease (2001)

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Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is now confirmed in the United Kingdom (February 20, 2001) in pigs in Essex, the first case in 20 years.

Due to the change in the United Kingdom's health status, current import conditions for all susceptible commodities eligible for import to Canada have been suspended (swine, cervine embryos, porcine embryos, caprine semen, cervine semen, ovine semen, porcine semen, products and by-products such as milk and certain dairy products and hides and skins). No import permits will be issued until further notice.

In addition, the European Commission has moved quickly to suspend export certification of risk products from the United Kingdom.

Canada does not import pork meat from the United Kingdom. Beef and beef products are not imported as the United Kingdom is not recognized free of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

What is Foot-and-mouth disease?

Foot-and-mouth disease is a severe, highly communicable viral disease of cattle and swine. It also affects sheep, goats, deer and other cloven-hoofed ruminants. Elephants, hedgehogs and some rodents are also susceptible to the virus but do not develop clinical signs of the disease. The disease is characterized by fever and blister-like sores on the tongue and lips, in the mouth, on the teats and between the hooves. Many affected animals recover, but the disease leaves them weakened and debilitated.

How is it spread?

Animals, people or materials can spread foot-and-mouth disease. An outbreak can occur when:

  • People wearing contaminated clothes or footwear, or using contaminated equipment, pass the virus to susceptible animals.
  • Animals carrying the virus are introduced into susceptible herds.
  • Contaminated facilities and vehicles are used to hold and move susceptible animals.
  • Meat or animal products infected with the virus or raw or improperly cooked food waste containing infected meat or animal products is fed to susceptible animals.
  • Susceptible animals are exposed to contaminated materials such as hay, feed, water, semen or biologics.

Does Canada have Foot-and-mouth disease?

Canada has been free of Foot-and-mouth disease since 1952.

Is Foot-and-mouth disease a serious disease?

Foot-and-mouth disease is an extremely serious livestock illness and it is one of the most contagious of animal diseases. The disease also causes severe production losses in domestic livestock. Canadian animals are highly susceptible. If an outbreak occurred, the virus could spread rapidly to all parts of the country through routine livestock movements. Unless detected early and eradicated immediately, losses could reach billions of dollars in the first year. Wildlife such as deer, elk and bison could become infected and remain a reservoir for the virus.

How is Foot-and-mouth disease diagnosed?

Foot-and-mouth disease can be confused with several other animal illnesses. Vesicles or blisters are the most apparent clinical sign. The blisters occur on the nose, tongue, lips, between the toes, above the hooves and on the teats. Foot lesions are accompanied by acute lameness and reluctance to move. Additional signs include fever, depression, loss of appetite or milk production. Whenever blisters or other typical signs are observed, laboratory tests must be completed to confirm the disease.

What is the CFIA doing?

The CFIA is prohibiting importation of susceptible animals and animal products from the United Kingdom. The CFIA has suspended the issuance of import permits from the United Kingdom for live animals, semen, embryos, and animal products from susceptible animals.

As a precaution, the CFIA is investigating whether there are any import permits that have been issued but not used, and is tracing any products that have entered Canada recently.

The CFIA and the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA) have increased surveillance of passengers and baggage arriving on international flights. This will result in increased detector dog activity and secondary referrals to the CCRA.

What can the public do to help prevent this disease?

In an effort to protect the current health status of our national livestock population, the CFIA requests that the following precautions be observed:

If you travel:

  • Declare all meat, dairy or other animal products that you want to bring back to Canada.
  • If you visited a farm while abroad make sure that the clothing and footwear you wore during your visit are free from soil or manure. Clean and disinfect your footwear. Dry cleaning of clothes is recommended.
  • Stay away from Canadian farms for 14 days (as recommended by the Office International des Épizooties) after returning to Canada

If you farm in Canada:

  • Prevent farm or ranch visits by anyone who has been to the United Kingdom in the last 14 days. Although humans are not susceptible to foot-and-mouth disease, they can serve as carriers.
  • If visitors must come to the farm they should take additional sanitary precautions such as washing and disinfecting all personal effects and equipment that have accompanied them. It is particularly important to clean and disinfect footwear.

Who do I call for more information?

Please call your local CFIA office (refer to blue pages of your phone book) or refer to the Website Import Contact List (www.cfia-acia.agr.ca/english/anima/heasan/import/conpere.shtml) for more information on foot-and-mouth disease in general or for information on the disease status of other countries.

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Why NOT Vaccinate Against Foot-and-Mouth in Canada (2001)

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There are many countries around the world that have chosen to live with and vaccinate against foot and mouth disease. There are many problems associated with this, including;

There are seven major strains of the virus and they do not cross-react against each other, therefore, one must vaccinate against the particular strain that may be encountered. This can be done in countries that do not import animals or animal products because, in these countries, specific strains generally occur in broad areas.

  • Vaccination is not 100% effective and certainly does not guarantee that the disease will not occur.
  • There is not nearly enough vaccine available fo the livestock populations in North America.
  • The vaccine is expensive.
  • The virus can mutate so that even after vaccination, protection may fail.
  • Vaccinated animals can harbour the virus (in the case of cattle for up to four years) and continue to pass the infection onto other animals.
  • There is presently no way to differentiate vaccinated from infected animals on the basis of blood tests, so if the disease were to occur, infected animals could not be distinguished from vaccinated animals. Perhaps both infected and vaccinated animals would have to be destroyed.
  • Animals that recover from FMD (also cannot be distinguished from those that had been vaccinated) are chronic under-performers and are subject to a variety of other health problems e.g. mastitis, abortion, poor production....
  • Canada exports more than 60% of its livestock products; if we were to vaccinate, this market would immediately disappear.
  • Canada has an enviable animal health reputation around the globe- vaccinating against FMD would immediately cause the loss of this advantage.
  • Vaccination has been considered as a method of building a firewall surrounding an infected area - but vaccinated animals would later have to be destroyed

Having said all of the above, vaccination still is considered something that may have to be done should the epizootic become out of control.

By Dr. Ron Lewis; Courtesy of Ron Barker, BCMAFF

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