Foot-and-Mouth Disease

By George Grow

This is the VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT.

Agriculture officials in Britain are attempting to stop the spread of foot-and-mouth disease. The disease was found in pigs last month at a meat production center in Essex, east of London. More cases have been reported among farm animals in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The disease has been found in more than thirty areas in Britain. Officials have ordered the killing of at least eleven-thousand animals.

Britain and the European Union have banned exports of live animals, milk and meat products until the crisis ends. British officials also have asked the public not to visit farm areas to avoid spreading the virus that causes the disease.

Foot-and-mouth disease is one of the animal diseases that farmers fear most. The disease spreads widely and quickly. It can cause severe production and economic losses.

Foot-and-mouth disease affects cows, deer, goats, pigs and sheep. Affected animals 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 people. But people can carry the virus on their clothing and shoes.

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

Experts say foot-and-mouth disease spreads quickly unless it is discovered early and stopped immediately. They say farmers can support efforts to prevent its spread. Experts urge farmers to watch for signs of the disease, such as an animal having difficulty walking. Another sign is large amounts of fluid leaking from the mouth. Farmers should immediately report any unusual sign of disease to local experts or disease control officials.

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.

Foot-and-mouth disease is one of the most difficult animal infections to control. The disease is found in many parts of the world. Different forms of the virus have been identified in Africa, Asia, Europe and South America.

This VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT was written by George Grow.

Voice of America Special English