USDA Continues Viligance Against Foot And Mouth Disease

Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman yesterday said the USDA will continue to be vigilant in its efforts to prevent foot and mouth disease (FMD) from entering the United States, including intensified scrutiny and inspections at ports of entry and a temporary import prohibition of swine, ruminants and products that could potentially carry the virus from the European Union and other countries that have confirmed cases of this animal disease.

In a get-acquainted meeting, European Union Commissioner David Byrne and Secretary Veneman discussed many issues of interest including trade, biotechnology, and the current FMD situation. The meeting was very productive and both look forward to working together on various issues in the future.

"We had a very productive and cordial meeting today," said Secretary Veneman. "We discussed a wide range of issues important to our countries and we look forward to working together and continuing to strengthen relationships."

Among other important issues, they discussed the current FMD situation in Europe and the current U.S. temporary prohibition of certain products from the European Union. The Secretary gave no indication of a regionalization or lifting of the temporary restrictions at this time.

"This is a very difficult situation, and we certainly recognize the extensive efforts that the EU and the member states are taking to control the current outbreak," said Veneman. "We will continue reviewing our policies but remain concerned about the spread of FMD within the EU and the risk of introduction into the United States. Given the current situation, we are not prepared to lift any restrictions at this time."

The United States continues to safeguard American agriculture from FMD and all other foreign animal diseases. Since the outbreak of the disease in parts of Europe and other countries, USDA has strengthened its protections. A list can be found at http://www.thehorse.com/ViewArticle.aspx?ID=1201.

USDA continues to review its current APHIS programs and staffing to ensure appropriate resources are available to prevent the entry of FMD into the United States, both short and long-term. USDA continues to review emergency operations plans to ensure appropriate response mechanisms are in place (federal/state) to act quickly if FMD were ever to enter the United States. This includes continuing ongoing research, including possible vaccination methods, increased surveillance and regulatory controls.

While FMD does not pose a health risk to humans or horses, it is highly contagious to livestock and could cost billions in containment and eradication if detected in the United States.

FMD is a highly contagious and economically devastating disease of ruminants and swine. The United States has been free of FMD since 1929. FMD is one of the animal diseases that livestock owners dread most because it spreads widely and rapidly and because it has grave economic consequences.

Current information on foot-and-mouth disease and traveler questions and answers are available on the Internet at http://www.usda.gov/.

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