Vaccination Program Could Be Effective Against FMDBy Pork News SourceUSDA, in a significant policy shift, says it might quickly vaccinate livestock if there is a U.S. outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. Since last month's outbreak of foot-and-mouth in Britain, USDA says there has been a "five-fold" increase in the number of U.S. farmers, ranchers and veterinarians calling its offices to report animals with symptoms like those associated with the disease. But none of the animals has had foot-and-mouth. Officials attribute the increase in such calls, which normally average 350 or so a year, to heightened awareness sparked by the news from Europe.

The disease is easy to spread — it can travel 50 miles or so via the wind if conditions are cool and wet and even can survive on the soles of shoes. A massive vaccination program, USDA officials say, could be much more effective at containing an outbreak than the immediate slaughter and burning of animals that have been exposed to the disease or are in areas near an outbreak. That's because it's simple to administer the vaccine, and it acts quickly. Plus, large opeartions would allow veterinarians to inoculate large numbers of animals at one time.

"Previously, we had thought of vaccine only as a last-ditch remedy" and had focused on destruction of animals as the sole solution, says Joe Annelli of the department's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. But after staging a mock outbreak last November in Texas, Annelli says, officials changed their minds.

Even the vaccinated animals, however, would be destroyed eventually. That's because all the vaccines developed to battle the seven types of foot-and-mouth leave "markers" in the animals' blood that make it impossible to distinguish a vaccinated animal from one that's been exposed to the disease.

Meanwhile officials worked to allay concerns about an outbreak in the USA, where there hasn't been a case of foot-and-mouth since 1929, thanks in large part to controls on imports of food and livestock.

USA Today