IN THE NEWS #472 - Foot-and-Mouth Disease

By George Grow

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS.

The United States and other countries this week banned imports of animals and animal products from the European Union. The actions are part of an international effort to stop the spread of foot-and-mouth disease. The disease causes huge economic losses for farmers and the meat industry.

Foot-and-mouth disease was confirmed in pigs last month at a meat production center east of London. Since then, more than two-hundred-fifty cases of the disease have been reported in Britain and Northern Ireland. The United States announced its temporary ban on some E-U exports after it was discovered the disease had spread to one area of France.

E-U officials have criticized the restrictions. They say the ban should target the affected countries, not all fifteen E-U member countries.

Foot and mouth disease affects cows, deer, goats, pigs and sheep. Animals who get the disease develop cuts in their mouths and on their feet. Many affected animals recover. However, the disease weakens them. The disease is not considered dangerous to humans. People spread the virus because they carry in on their clothing and shoes.

Experts say the virus can live for long periods in the body of an animal and in animal waste products. The virus also is able to survive in the air and in water and fields.

There are at least seven forms of the foot-and-mouth virus. One or more versions can attack animals at the same time. An animal can suffer repeated attacks of the disease. This is because natural resistance to one form of the virus does not protect it against other versions.

Experts urge farmers to watch for signs of food-and-mouth disease, such as an animal having trouble walking. Another sign of the disease is a large amount of fluid leaking from the mouth of a farm animal.

Experts say foot-and-mouth disease spreads quickly unless it is found early and stopped immediately. The main method of controlling the disease is to kill animals that might be affected. Britain began destroying hundreds of thousands of healthy animals Friday to try to stop the disease from spreading.

This week, some countries banned beef imports from Argentina after foot-and-mouth disease was found there. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates also reported cases of the disease.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization says no country can consider itself safe from the risk of foot-and-mouth disease. It is calling for international action to prevent the spread of the disease. The F-A-O urges countries most at risk to strengthen controls at border crossings. It notes that vehicles and travelers can easily spread the disease. And, it advises officials to develop plans in the event the disease spreads to animals in their country.

This VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS, was written by George Grow. This is Steve Ember.

Voice of America Special English