Foot and Mouth Disease
With all the uproar over foot and mouth disease in Europe cancelling race meets and now restrictions on importing horses to the US, many of you are probably asking "Just what is foot and mouth disease anyway?". The short story is, foot and mouth disease is a highly contagious viral disease which only affects cloven-hooved animals such as pigs, cattle, sheep, goats, etc. It causes the formation of blisters mostly on the feet and in the mouth which leads to lameness and lack of appetite. It does not generally cause death except in very young animals but rather causes causes economic damage due to serious production losses and major constraints on international trade.
The disease is one of the most contagious animal diseases known and can be spread by just walking through a field where infected animals have been. The virus can even survive in meat that has been frozen or salted and cured! Although the disease does NOT affect horses, they can spread it since they are often stabled or pastured with other animals, especially in Europe where space is so limited. Some of the racecourses over there are also used to graze sheep or cattle between meets, so the horses racing over it can carry the virus to other locations on their feet. It is for this reason that the movement of horses is being so restricted.
Here is some more reference material you can read to find out more about foot and mouth disease and how to stop its spread:
- Foot and Mouth Disease - an excellent article from the European Commission fo the Control of Foot and Mouth Disease
- Encyclopedia article on Foot and Mouth Disease - from Encarta
- Foot and Mouth Disease Precautions - from Antec, a manufacturer or disenfectant controls for the disease
- Foot and Mouth Disease - from Wikipedia
- What is Foot and Mouth Disease? - from the government of Malaysia
Graphics by the author.