Foot and mouth disease
Learn what foot and mouth disease is, clinical signs and precautions to take on your farm.
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Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is a severe and highly contagious disease of swine and cattle. It also affects sheep, goats, deer and other cloven (split) hoofed animals. It is not a risk to human health.
FMD is a reportable disease in the Health of Animals Act. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is the lead agency for FMD. Any suspect case must be immediately reported to a CFIA veterinarian. Specific measures are in place to control and eliminate the disease if needed.
The disease has not been found in Canada for almost fifty years. There was a FMD outbreak in Europe in early 2001. By mid-March, the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) and France had confirmed cases. Some countries in Asia, Africa and South America have also had cases of FMD.
The virus is easily spread by people, animals, objects and equipment. This makes it necessary for Canadians to be extremely alert and take steps to keep the virus out of the country.
Federal and provincial governments are working together to monitor the situation and keep people informed. Ontario supports the work of the CFIA.
How serious is FMD?
Foot-and-mouth disease is an extremely serious livestock illness. It is one of the most contagious animal diseases. The disease causes severe production losses in domestic livestock. FMD is different from hand-foot-and-mouth disease, and is not a risk to human health.
Canadian animals are highly susceptible. If an outbreak occurred, the virus could spread quickly to all parts of the country. Wildlife such as deer, elk and bison could become infected and remain a reservoir for the virus. FMD is a reportable disease in the Health of Animals Act. Any suspect case must be immediately reported to a CFIA veterinarian. Specific measures are in place to control and eliminate the disease if needed.
How is FMD spread?
The foot-and-mouth disease virus can be spread by people, animals and other objects such as clothing, vehicles, equipment, feed or water. It can also spread through the air-up to 60 km across land and up to 300 km across water.
An outbreak can occur when:
- People, animals, vehicles and other objects that have been contaminated by the virus pass the virus to susceptible animals
- Meat, dairy products or other animal products infected with the virus are fed to susceptible animals.
- Susceptible animals are exposed to contaminated materials such as hay, feed, water, semen or biologics.
- Animals carrying the virus are introduced to susceptible herds.
- Contaminated facilities (e.g., buildings and pens) and vehicles are used to hold and move susceptible animals.
The public is urged to take safety measures to reduce the risk of foot-and-mouth disease coming into Canada.
If you travel:
- Follow all the precautions and routines that Canada Customs and Revenue Agency and CFIA have at airports and other entry points to Canada.
- Do not bring back any meat, and dairy or other animal products (including hides or skins) even if cured or processed. The virus can survive in these products for an extended period. Meat, dairy products or animal products that have the virus are sources of infection.
- If you visited a farm while abroad, make sure the clothes you wore during your visit are thoroughly cleaned. CFIA recommends dry cleaning of clothes.
- If you visited a farm while abroad, make sure the footwear you used during your visit is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. CFIA recommends Virkon® to disinfect cleaned items.
- Stay away from farms for 14 days after returning to Canada.
If you have international visitors:
- Ensure visitors from other countries follow the same precautions as travellers who are returning to Canada.
What precautions can farmers take to keep FMD away from livestock?
Producers are urged take extra precautions to keep foot-and-mouth disease away from farms and livestock.
If you have visitors:
- Prevent visitors from having contact with livestock, equipment, feed and water.
- Prevent visits by anyone who, in the last 14 days, has been in any country that had a recent outbreak of the disease. Although people are not susceptible to foot-and-mouth disease, they can be carriers of the virus.
- If international visitors must come to your farm, you should take extra precautions.
- Have visitors wash and disinfect all personal effects and objects they bring with them. CFIA recommends dry cleaning of clothes.
- It is especially important to thoroughly clean and disinfect footwear. CFIA recommends Virkon® to disinfect cleaned items. Virkon® powder in 2% solution should be used as follows: 20grams of Virkon® per litre of water. Contact should be for 10 minutes.
If you travel:
- Do not visit farms in any countries that have had recent outbreaks of FMD.
- Follow all the precautions and routines that Canada Customs and Revenue Agency and CFIA have set at airports and other entry points to Canada.
- When returning home, follow the same extra precautions as visitors coming to your farm.
If you suspect the disease in your herd:
- Call your veterinarian if an animal shows signs or symptoms that are similar to foot-and-mouth disease.
- Isolate the sick animal and call your local CFIA office.
- Avoid contact with other farmers. Ensure everyone on the farm who has had contact with the sick animal also avoids contact with other producers.
- Do not allow people, vehicles or equipment to enter or leave your property until a CFIA veterinarian has checked the situation.
What are the signs or symptoms of FMD in animals?
Blisters or "vesicles" are the most apparent clinical signs of foot-and-mouth disease. The blisters occur on the nose, tongue, lips, between toes, above hooves and on teats. Foot lesions can cause lameness. Other signs include fever, depression, loss of appetite or marked loss of milk production.
Foot-and-mouth disease can be confused with several other animal illnesses. Consult a veterinarian if in doubt.
What is the government doing about FMD disease?
Canada has been free of foot-and-mouth disease since 1952. The federal government is working to prevent the disease from entering the country.
- The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has enhanced import controls animals, meat, dairy products and other animal products.
- CFIA and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) have increased surveillance of passengers and baggage on international flights. This has resulted in increased secondary inspections and detector dog activity at airports.
- OMAFRA continues to work with livestock industry organisations to promote awareness and adoption of sound biosecurity practices and vigilance for signs of illness and disease at the farm level.