FAQs related to Operation Waiheke Media Advisory 4
Although death from Foot and Mouth Disease is unusual in adult animals, it causes serious production losses and can kill young animals. The clinical signs are fever, followed by the appearance of vesicles (fluid-filled blisters) between the toes and on the heels, on mammary glands and especially on the lips, tongue and palate. These vesicles often combine to form large, swollen blisters that erupt to leave raw, painful ulcers that take up to 10 days to heal. Foot lesions leave animals lame and unable to walk to feed or water. Mouth lesions are highly painful and cause animals to stop eating. Adults usually begin eating again after a few days, but young animals may weaken and die, especially if the virus has caused lesions on heart muscles, or be left with foot deformities or damage to the mammary glands.
Foot and Mouth Disease can be destroyed by heat, low humidity, or certain disinfectants, but it may exist for a varying time in a suitable medium such as the frozen or chilled carcass of an infected animal and on contaminated objects.
Foot and Mouth Disease is regarded as one of the most highly infectious livestock diseases. It spreads very rapidly from one animal to another, especially in cool, damp climates and/or when animals are penned or housed in cold weather. Seven strains of the virus are recognised.
It is generally accepted that maximum aerosol spread is 10 km over land (up to 60 km suspected) and up to 250 km over water. Concentrations of pigs can generate virus aerosols (plumes) over considerable distance if environmental conditions are suitable- high humidity, cool ambient temperature. Airborne transmission from cattle and sheep can not be shown experimentally to occur over distances in excess of approximately 3 km. Although occasionally dramatic, plumes are FMD strain specific and may not be important in disease spread. Infected animals and animal products are by far the important source of new infections.
Foot and Mouth Disease is transmitted from one animal to another in saliva, mucus, milk or faeces. It can also be spread by aerosols in the wind (excreted from the lungs of infected animals by breathing). Wool, hair, grass or straw, footwear, clothing, livestock equipment or vehicle tyres may act as mechanisms of infection.
FMD has a wide host including cattle, swine, sheep, goats, deer, elk, antelope, bison, and water buffalo. Llamas and alpacas have a high natural resistance to infection and appear not transmit FMD to other camelids under field conditions. Elephants are also susceptible. Horses are resistant.
Experimentally other species including mice, rats, guinea pigs, rabbits, embryonating chicken eggs and chickens themselves may be infected but these are not implicated in the spread of FMD. Foot and Mouth Disease is not a human health risk.
Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) is an acute, highly contagious viral infection of cloven hoofed domestic animals and wildlife, easily transmitted by direct and indirect contact as well as aerosol. It is found in most parts of the world, at present the World Animal Health Organisation lists 55 countries in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and South America that have the disease.
No, there is no Foot and Mouth Disease risk for people from eating meat.
No. Vaccination is used in some countries where FMD is present to control the disease.
MAF has a full emergency plan ready for immediate action which has clear lines of accountability between the agencies and organisations involved in managing FMD.
Firstly there is an investigation:
Within 15 minutes of an alert to a possible FMD outbreak, a vet is dispatched by the Exotic Disease Response Centre. This vet must report back to the outbreak response manager at the Centre within six hours. During this time the entire exotic disease response system is placed on alert.
If the vet can't rule out FMD, an exotic disease investigator will be sent to collect samples. These samples will then go to the New Zealand Animal Health Reference Laboratory for immediate diagnosis and samples will be sent on the Pirbright Animal Health Laboratory in the UK for final virus 'typing' to determine the exact strain of FMD. Once this is identified a vaccine specific for that strain will be ordered. A Restricted Place Notice will be placed on the farm/s under investigation prohibiting the movement of all livestock, vehicles on and off the farm, and other high risk items.
Then comes the Response phase:
Within the first 24 hours of a definite confirmation of FMD, the following actions must happen:
- whole of government crisis management mechanism is activated
- immediate national livestock standstill
- slaughter of susceptible stock on known infected farms
- restricted place notices are prepared to quarantine infected premises
- road blocks put in place
- movement control of risk products within and out of the restricted place and controlled area
- intensive tracing and investigation of all livestock movements on and off infected properties
- decontamination of premises, vehicles and other high-risk items in contact with infected animals
- markets notified and suspension of trade
- briefing of officials and key stakeholders
- markets notified and suspension of trade
- briefing of officials and key stakeholders, at both national and local level.
They should contact the MAF emergency hotline immediately on 0800 80 99 66 any time of day or night.
A FMD outbreak represents a significant threat to New Zealand's economy and way of life, with the following likely consequences.
- virtually all exports of meat, animal by products, and dairy products would halt and most would not resume until at least three months after the slaughter of the last infected animal
- our international reputation for premium beef and lamb could be severely damaged
- there would be a cumulative reduction in our GDP of around $6 billion dollars in the first year, rising up to $10 billions dollars by the second year
- unemployment would rise by 1 percent - a loss of approximately 15,000-20,000 jobs.
Countries recognized as FMD free without vaccination have no international trade restrictions whereas those that utilise vaccine to control FMD experience significant embargoes.
There are seven strains of the FMD virus. Vaccines tend to protect against only one strain. To adopt vaccination as an effective preventive measure would require use of either multi-valent vaccines (i.e. containing more than one virus strain) or multiple vaccines.
Preventive vaccination would interfere with clinical expression of disease if FMD were introduced, while still allowing virus to circulate. So, the sensitivity of surveillance measures would decrease. Further, the presence of antibody positive animals in the population would interfere with serological surveillance to demonstrate disease freedom, because there are still no widely available tests to distinguish between antibodies from natural infection and those from vaccination.
Emergency suppressive vaccination (vaccinating animals in an outbreak, then slaughtering all vaccinated animals) may assist eradication procedures. NZ is creating their own FMD Vaccine Bank for emergency use in the event of an outbreak. Resumption of status as "FMD free without vaccination" occurs three months after the last case and the slaughter of all vaccinated animals.
New Zealand has never had a case of Foot and Mouth Disease. However, it is vulnerable because of the high number of visitors from Asia and the UK to the country, and from New Zealanders returning from trips overseas.
MAF Biosecurity New Zealand Clearance figures indicate that 42 per cent of all passengers found with undeclared risk goods are New Zealanders returning from overseas.
New Zealand is also vulnerable to people sending risk goods back to New Zealand through the mail, or ordering food or plant material from overseas, and people ordering over the Internet.
There are many potential ways, but the international spread of FMD virus is most commonly via the movement of live ruminants and pigs, followed by the movement of meat and meat products.
The two diseases are quite different. Foot and Mouth Disease in livestock is cased by a different virus (Picornavirus) and is not a threat to human health. Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease, is caused by a different virus (Coxsackie virus A16). It affects the inside of the mouth and the palms of the hands, fingers and soles of feet mostly of young children and especially among groups in day care centres, but it may be seen in adults.
FMD is not a public health concern. In exceptionally rare cases, FMD has been isolated from humans with itching vesicles in Europe, Africa and South America.