New U.K. Foot and Mouth Disease Case Confirmed; Movement Restrictions Enacted

Just when British veterinary authorities were beginning to breathe a little easier, a new case of foot and mouth disease (FMD) has surfaced in Surrey, about 30 miles from the two farms affected during the August outbreak. The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) confirmed positive test results in a statement released today. The decision to cull the cattle on the affected farm was made this earlier today on the basis of clinical signs, before laboratory testing confirmed the disease.

Foot and mouth disease (FMD) is a highly contagious viral disease of cloven-hooved ruminants, including cattle and swine. While horses cannot be infected by FMD, they can carry the virus on their hooves, skin, hair, and possibly in their nasal passages.

According to the statement, a ban on movement of all ruminants will be imposed in England, and agreements with Scottish and Welsh authorities are being made. Additional restrictions on the movement of animal carcasses, animal gatherings, shearing, and dipping, will be enforced. There will also be requirements for increased levels of biosecurity on farms, controls on transportation of dung/manure, and treatment of animal products to ensure destruction of the FMD virus.

The effects of these restrictions on the equine industry could be severe. A 2001 outbreak of FMD in England had a major impact on racing and sporthorse events, and the equine industry there was estimated to have lost £100 million ($203 million at current exchange rates) per month in March, April, and May of that year.

"At this stage we have not identified the strain or origin of this outbreak," said Britain's Chief Veterinary Officer Debby Reynolds, BVSc, PhD, MRCVS. "The situation remains uncertain, and I urge all animal keepers to be vigilant for signs of disease, practice stringent biosecurity measures, including the movement ban and licensing conditions."

About the Author

Erin Ryder

Erin Ryder is a former news editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care. She owns a portly gray gelding named Duncan and dabbles in several equestrian disciplines, with an emphasis on dressage.

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