Foot-and-mouth disease shouldn’t threaten cattle here

Some 1,800 federal agriculture inspectors are on alert at 90 United States ports of entry with trained scent dogs watching for food items, fruit and mud-anything that might carry the virus that would bring the dreaded foot-and-mouth disease to the United States.

While Hillsboro veterinarian Norman Galle is not overly concerned about the disease yet, he appreciates the efforts the government is taking to prevent it from coming to this country.

Asked how concerned area cattlemen should be about the disease, Galle said, “Not very-unless they travel overseas or have a guest or family come from over there.”

Foot-and-mouth disease is not to be confused with mad-cow disease or bovine sponfigorm encephalopathy.

“The two diseases are being confused,” Galle said. “There is no mad-cow disease in the United States, and I think there is very little chance of it coming because of all the precautions the government is taking to protect our cattle.”

Mad-cow disease, which can take up to five years to become evident, affects the brain and spinal cords of an animal and can most easily be contracted by humans eating cow brains.

“That isn’t a common dish here as it is in England,” Galle said. “But I believe the chance of getting the disease is one in a billion over there.”

Mad-cow disease affected England several years ago, and the government quickly implemented measures to stop its spread.

Cattle over age 3 are not butchered for meat, and they are not fed rumanent-animals with four stomachs-meat scraps.

“Our government has taken great precautions, and I just don’t think we’ll see it over here,” Galle said.

Among the preventative measures, the United States has banned the import of European ruminants, and cattle are not feed any ruminant meat scraps.

“Certified porcine meat scraps are fine,” said Galle. Sale barns now require a notice to be signed stating the cattle have not been fed the uncertified scraps, he said.

No medical tests can detect BSE or mad-cow disease in a live animal.

Foot-and-mouth disease is a highly contagious virus that affects cattle and swine. It also can affect sheep, goats, deer, elephants, rats, and other ruminants.

The United States has been free of the virus since 1929.

This disease does not affect humans.

The test for the disease takes about 40 hours to run from beginning to finish.

“Foot and mouth doesn’t kill a lot of cattle, but because of the blisters and its severity,” Galle said. “It affects production.”

According to the U.S.Department of Agriculture, the disease “is characterized by fever and by blister-like lesions in the mouth and on the teats and feet. Many affected animals recover, but the disease leaves them debilitated, and it causes losses in the production of meat and milk.”

The greatest danger with the disease is the virus’ capacity to remain alive in dead animal carcasses, in animal by-products, in water and in such materials as straw, bedding and mud.

Humans can carry the microbe in nasal passages for more than a day, and on muddy clothes for up to a week.

“The virus can be carried on dirty shoes, in the wind, carried on contaminated clothes and vehicles,” said Galle, who added that’s why animals are mass exterminated when the disease is first detected.

Galle said a vaccination exists for foot-and-mouth disease, but once the vaccination is given, the country forfeits the right to export the cow.

“You can’t tell the difference between the infected animal and the vaccinated one because of the titer level,” Galle said.

Titer level is the amount of the virus given for the vaccination.

Galle said the symptoms for foot-and-mouth disease are similar to other cattle diseases, such as vesicular stomatitis.

While he doesn’t believe foot-and-mouth disease is a worry for Marion County ranchers at this time, Galle said if the disease were to come to the United States it would have a devastating effect on the economy.

“It would have quite an impact and on more than just the cattle,” he said. “It would affect the grain people, livestock and even the price of food.”

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