Foot and Mouth Disease - an issue of continual exposure

28 February 2001

The threat of foot and mouth entering New Zealand from Britain is the same as the threat from any other county where foot and mouth is present, says the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

Foot and Mouth Disease is endemic in parts of Africa, Asia and South America.

"Africa, South America, Japan, Greece, Taiwan and Korea have all had recent foot and mouth outbreaks and in some of these places the disease is still presently endemic. It is an every day occurrence there.

"New Zealand has continual exposure to these countries and we have never had foot and mouth enter the country. MAF has procedures in place at the border that mitigate foot and mouth being brought in and we are careful about what we allow to be imported, " Dr Bryce said.

"MAF is on constant vigilance for exotic animal diseases. It is a risk we deal with every day. The recent restrictions put in place for Britain are the same as those in place right now for other foot and mouth countries and the risk from these countries is no less than that from Britain," he said.

New Zealand has never had a foot and mouth outbreak. Foot and mouth does not have any affect on human health.

Since the outbreak in Britain, all passengers arriving in New Zealand have had all meat products taken off them. The same restriction is imposed on passengers entering from any country where foot and mouth is present.

"Britain has been added to the list of countries where foot and mouth is present and therefore we will no longer allow imports of meat products to come in," says Allen Bryce, MAF's National Manager Surveillance and Response.

MAF restricted the importation of what little meat and meat products come into the country from Britain last week when the presence of foot and mouth was confirmed there. The British Government has also banned the export of all its meat and meat products, except for treated products which carry no risk.

MAF Quarantine staff check outdoor gear of high risk passengers coming from countries where foot and mouth is present, particularly if they have declared they had been on a farm, prior to their arrival in New Zealand.

New Zealand has not imported commercial consignments of meat and meat products from Britain for more than ten years. However, small consignments of meat and meat products for personal use are allowed into New Zealand with passengers from countries where foot and mouth is not present.

"Usually the type of product brought in is someone's favourite salami which they think they won't be able to get in New Zealand or a special kind of cheese. These products are not allowed from foot and mouth infected countries, including Britain."

Import health standards for risk products derived from cloven-hoofed animals in the United Kingdom have been revoked. This includes import standards for raw meat and by-products, deer velvet, unprocessed wool, unprocessed hides and dairy products. Standards for live animals, embryos and semen have also been withdrawn.

Some highly processed animal products will continue to be permitted entry from the Britain, as they present no risk of foot and mouth disease. This covers commercially cooked, shelf-stable meat products such as canned meat, canned soup, meat stock powders and stock cubes. The commercial cooking process for the manufacture of these products removes any risk of foot and mouth disease infection.


Foot and mouth disease

Foot and mouth is a highly contagious viral disease of domesticated and wild cloven-hoofed animals (cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, deer, camelids). It has a short incubation period, (1-7 days) which requires only a small infective dose to infect animals, which it can do via multiple routes (respiratory, oral, direct contact with membranes or damaged skin). A massive quantity of the virus can be released from infected animals and the virus has the ability to travel over long distances by airborne dispersal.

The clinical signs can vary between species, but vesicles (blisters) on the nose, mouth and feet are consistent. Animals go off their feed, are depressed and lame, and may salivate profusely. Animals take several weeks to recover from the disease. The death rate from the disease is generally low, although it may be up to 20% in young animals. However, there are significant production effects such as weight loss, a reduction in milk and meat quality, and pregnant animals may abort.

FMD is endemic in the continents of Africa, Asia and South America, although some countries on those continents have successfully controlled and eradicated the disease.In countries free of the disease, outbreaks are typically met with stamping out procedures, due to the severe economic impacts of the disease. These are associated with the impact on international trade (few countries accept animals or animal products from FMD infected countries) and the effects of the disease on animal production.

The internationally established measures for stamping out FMD include: · Enforcing movement controls on livestock and equipment used with livestock (including stock trucks) · Tracing all movements of livestock and equipment used with livestock on and off infected places · Depopulating livestock on infected places, disposing carcasses by incineration or deep burial, and cleaning and disinfecting. · Monitoring places with high-risk contact with infected places (determined by tracing, and by assessing meteorological information to predict airborne spread), with pre-emptive depopulation of livestock on places considered to be at high risk of developing disease · Follow-up surveillance to ensure the measures have been effective.

MAF maintains systems with specific capability to respond in this way to exotic diseases such as foot and mouth disease.

For further information contact:

Gita Parsot on 04-4989-806

Contact MPI

for general enquiries phone

0800 00 83 33