Food-and-mouth disease (FMD) has been an economically devastating animal health threat in various parts of the world over the years. While the United States hasn’t faced the disease that can infect any animal with hooves since 1929, concern lingers within all sectors of animal agriculture.
Today, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) announced an initiative to combat FMD on a global scale, laying out a detailed strategy to bring it under control and work toward an FMD-free objective.
Both international groups emphasized, however, that all global partners will have to make sincere commitments to achieve success. The announcement came at an FAO/OIE international meeting in Bangkok supported by the Thai Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives.
"Thailand is working for the further accomplishment of FMD freedom by 2015 in an eastern region pilot zone of the country as well as at ASEAN regional level by 2020," Thai Deputy Prime Minister Chumpol Silpa-archa, said during the opening session.
"Recent FMD outbreaks around the globe demonstrate that animal diseases have no boundaries, can have a devastating impact and require a global response," said Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO’s regional representative for Asia and the Pacific.
FMD itself is not typically fatal to animals, but its highly contagious nature forces animal culling in order to control the disease and it quickly closes trading options for infected countries. The disease can cause high mortality in newborn and young animals, weight loss, reduced milk yields and lower fertility. It is not of concern to humans.
The global cost of FMD associated with production losses and vaccination for prevention estimated at $5 billion annually. Some countries are skittish to import animals or meat from animals that have been vaccinated with an FMD vaccine, but much progress has been made. There is a “marker vaccine,” which now makes it possible to differentiate between animals infected with FMD virus and animals vaccinated against FMD.
Progress is being made in diagnostic tests as well. According to Jim Roth, DVM, at Iowa State University, oral-fluid testing for swine shows promise. In this case, ropes are hung within pens, which the pigs chew on; the ropes absorb saliva, which can then be tested for certain diseases. More work needs to be done on FMD, Roth notes, but it appears hopeful for FMD diagnostics and monitoring.
As an example of a severe event, in 2001 the United Kingdom’s direct and indirect cost impacts are estimated at $30 billion.