Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard
Snow Leopard cub (7 mos old) - Cape May County Zoo

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Foot and Mouth Disease

While I do currently only work on cats and dogs (and other small mammals), I haven't forgotten the large animals. I do miss working with them at times - notably on a gorgeous day when I'd rather be outside. On a snowy cold blustery day, however, I'm glad I work on pets!

Recently there have been some stories in the news about Foot and Mouth Disease. I'm sure most people don't give these types of things much thought - unless they are in farming/ranching or related industries.

Texas Urges Vigilance amid reports of FMD outbreak
FMD Vaccine shows "compelling results" in preclinical trials
South Africa invests in new facility to make FMD vaccine

But things that affect livestock can and do affect the average American consumer too.  These animals will have decreased production (ie, milk), lose body condition and stop growing. Livestock producers lose money and prices of milk, meat and other animal by-products (leather, etc) would have to rise to meet the difference, especially in a large outbreak. But we can also be involved in spreading this disease too, especially if one travels to a country where an outbreak is going on.  

FMD is highly contagious virus that primarily affects cattle, pigs, sheep, goats and other "cloven-hoofed" animals. Blister like lesions, called vesicles,  appear on the mouth and feet. It is easily spread through contact and exhaled air from infected animals.  Because of it's clinical impact and ease of spread, the primary way this is dealt with is to kill and dispose of the carcasses. There is a vaccine but the problem has been that there are various strains and it doesn't have a long lasting effect. Animals can also remain carriers for long  periods so quarantines are difficult to define. 

This is a "reportable" disease, which means if a veterinarian or farm workers suspects or diagnoses this disease, the state and federal veterinarians MUST be notified so that immediate action can be taken to limit it's spread.  

This is an excerpt from Population Control Measures for FMD that explains just HOW contagious this disease can be:

2) Wind-borne virus. It has been shown that FMDV may be transported considerable distances (up to 150 miles across the sea in exceptional conditions) on the wind. Usually, the distances for which the virus is transported in sufficient quantities to cause infectionare much shorter than this. Survival and therefore long-distance transport of the infective virus is most likely in conditions of high relative humidity (damp, overcast conditions rather than dry, sunny conditions). The distance and direction of movement depend on meteorological factors such as wind direction and wind speed and on local landscape topography (e.g. hills funnelling air movement). Computer programmes have been developed, based on data from previous outbreaks (e.g. the 1967-68 outbreak in the UK),  which show very clearly where the virus plume will move. The usefulness of these programmes was demonstrated clearly in their ability to predict the movement of virus from the FMD outbreak in Brittany which caused the outbreaks on Jersey and the Isle of Wight in 1981.

This is not an exaggeration. I remember learning about this in veterinary school too. 

Note: This is NOT the same "foot and mouth disease" that is seen in humans.  

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