What animals does it affect?
Foot and mouth disease (FMD) is caused by a virus that only infects cloven-hooved animals. An animal is cloven-hooved if its foot is divided in two. In New Zealand this includes cows, pigs, sheep, goats, deer, alpaca and llama. The disease doesn't affect other animals, such as rodents, cats, dogs, birds, or horses.
FMD is an animal health disease. It has no significant health impacts on humans. Even though it has a similar name, it is completely different from the human condition, 'hand, foot and mouth disease'.
Why is the disease a problem?
FMD spreads quickly and before infected animals show symptoms. Many farms could be infected by FMD before we find the first case in New Zealand.
An outbreak of FMD would have a major impact on susceptible animals, our primary industries and the economy because:
- it reduces agricultural productivity
- it can be very painful for infected animals
- all trade in animal products would be stopped and rural businesses (such as farms, farm contractors, animal processors, and transporters) would be affected
- it would severely impact exports of dairy, red meat and pork products for months or even years after the outbreak, as we would no longer be regarded as FMD-free by trading countries.
Enhancing our protections and readiness
Indonesia is currently managing an FMD outbreak of the disease. This situation does not significantly raise the risk to New Zealand, but we are committed to reviewing biosecurity settings where required and we’ve taken several steps to boost our protections at the border to keep FMD out.
Travellers arriving from Indonesia from 23 March 2023
Due to the heightened risk of FMD in Indonesia, Biosecurity New Zealand has enhanced processes in place for travellers arriving in New Zealand.
Passengers arriving on direct flights from Bali will:
- use a dedicated biosecurity lane and baggage carousel on arrival at Auckland Airport
- face additional risk assessment questioning from officers and may be directed to undergo baggage searches
- require footwear to be disinfected.
The measures build on the enhanced processes Biosecurity New Zealand introduced in July 2022 for passengers arriving on indirect flights from Indonesia, including a ban on bringing in meat products.
We encourage arriving air passengers from Indonesia to wear closed-toed shoes for their flight back to New Zealand rather than open-toed footwear like jandals/flip flops/sandals. This will speed up the process for disinfecting footwear.
Travellers can protect New Zealand from FMD by:
- avoiding contact with wildlife or livestock such as cattle, pigs, or goats
- avoiding visiting farmland or rice fields
- making sure shoes and clothing are free of any soil or dirt
- avoiding bringing back risk items, including animal-based food products and skulls or untanned leather souvenirs
- staying away from New Zealand farms or livestock for at least a week after arrival.
Passengers will be asked enhanced biosecurity questions upon arrival. These include:
- Have you been in contact with any wildlife or livestock such as cattle, pigs, or goats?
- Have you visited any farmlands (including rice fields)?
- Do you have any shoes or equipment contaminated with soil or that have been on any farmlands/rice fields?
- Do you have any animal products such as food items and souvenirs such as skulls and untanned leather?
Make sure you answer these honestly. A false declaration may incur a $400 fine.
In 2022, MPI set up a dedicated FMD taskforce to focus our readiness work for the unlikely event of an incursion.
The Taskforce worked closely with stakeholders and other government agencies to further refresh our FMD plans.
Early detection is vital
Early detection of FMD would be vital so we can respond quickly, eradicate the disease as soon as possible, and resume trade in animal products. We would all have a role to play in helping New Zealand recover from an FMD outbreak.
It's easy to spread, harder to stop
FMD is highly contagious and can be spread:
- through direct contact between infected and susceptible animals
- when infected meat is fed to susceptible animals
- by objects or people that come into contact with infected animals
- by wind or water – particularly from infected piggeries. The wind can carry the virus up to several hundred kilometres.
Infected animals can spread the virus through:
- breath and saliva
- meat and milk
- manure or other waste products
- semen or blood
- contamination of mud or soil by hooves.
The virus can survive several months without a host (for example, in soil) under favourable conditions.
Disinfectants can kill the virus on objects
Cleaning and applying an approved disinfectant kills the virus on objects such as footwear, vehicles, clothing and farm equipment. For disinfection to be effective, it's important that items are cleaned first.
How FMD could get into NZ
The foot and mouth virus usually enters a country through contaminated animal products (such as ham, salami or waste containing meat products), which are then fed to susceptible animals such as pigs. Infected pigs produce large amounts of the virus and are important in the spread of FMD – through direct contact with other susceptible animals, or by wind. In New Zealand, it's illegal to feed pigs untreated meat or waste that might have contacted raw meat. These products must be cooked for at least an hour at 100 degrees Celsius.
New Zealand doesn't accept animal products from countries with foot and mouth disease and we have strict controls for imported animal products. However, it's possible that the virus could get in through illegally imported animal products.
- High fever for 2 or 3 days.
- Blisters or sores around the mouth, muzzle, feet and teats.
- Drooling, tooth grinding and chomping.
- Lameness (limping) or a tendency to lie down (pigs may also squeal when walking).
- Shivering or raised temperature.
- Lethargy or depression.
- Drop in milk yield for cows.
- Death of young animals.
Pictures to help you identify symptoms
Infected animals are affected differently and may not show all the symptoms.
Note, these pictures have graphic content that may upset some people.