Response to foot-and-mouth disease

If New Zealand had an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), MPI would initiate the FMD response plan.


An FMD outbreak would trigger the declaration of a Biosecurity Emergency under Part 7 of the Biosecurity Act 1993 (section 144, Declaration of a biosecurity emergency and section 145, Emergency powers).

Biosecurity Act 1993 – NZ Legislation website

Declaring a Biosecurity Emergency would provide very broad powers to MPI for the management of the outbreak and to facilitate disease control. These powers could cover surveillance, investigation, movement control, organism management and other powers to manage the crisis.

Fast and effective response is key

The faster New Zealand can respond to an outbreak of FMD, the faster we'd be able to eradicate it.

MPI's FMD response plan would be activated as soon as FMD is confirmed in our Animal Health Laboratory at Wallaceville (near Wellington). Our response would aim to eradicate the disease as quickly as possible, so we could return to normal trade as soon as possible (a 'stamping out' approach).

Even if the disease was confined to a small part of New Zealand, the whole country would be affected by an outbreak. It would take several weeks to determine how widely the disease had spread.

The poster FMD outbreak: the first three days shows what would happen in the early days of an outbreak. The response would then continue until FMD is eradicated and nationwide testing proves we're free of the disease again. This would take at least 4 to 5 months in a very small outbreak, and much longer in a large outbreak.

Download the poster – FMD outbreak: First three days [PDF, 1.2 MB]

Scenario of an FMD response

We've created a scenario of events for an FMD outbreak to show what would happen during a response.

Up to 2 weeks before the response

Foot-and-mouth virus arrives in New Zealand undetected in illegally imported, uncooked meat. The meat is fed to backyard pigs. FMD is then transmitted by air from the pigs to cows on a nearby farm.

Day of discovery, call made to MPI hotline

Suspected FMD symptoms are noticed in the cows and the farmer calls his vet. The vet examines the cows and suspects that it may be FMD, then reports it to MPI's 24-hour pest and disease hotline.

The hotline operator immediately alerts a specialist MPI vet (the duty investigator).

Within an hour, investigation under way

The duty investigator contacts the hotline caller to get more information and decide whether it sounds like FMD. If it does, an investigation starts.

MPI staff, AsureQuality and other directly affected parties are alerted. Collection of milk from the affected properties is put on hold until the investigation is complete.

A local MPI-contracted vet (the initial investigating vet) who is trained in exotic diseases like FMD goes to the property to investigate.

Within 5 hours

The vet investigates the site and immediately reports findings back to MPI.

If the vet can't rule out FMD, then a specialist MPI vet (an incursion investigator) is sent out for a second opinion.

The MPI vet examines stock and either confirms it may be FMD, or rules out FMD and the investigation ends.

If the MPI vet suspects FMD:

  • they collect samples from infected animals for rapid diagnosis by the MPI Animal Health Laboratory at Wallaceville
  • the affected properties become Restricted Places banning the movement of all livestock, vehicles and other high-risk products (both on and off the property)
  • the farmer (or owner) is asked to record all vehicle and stock movements to and from the property for the past 3 weeks
  • a management plan is put in place for the farm and any other properties that may have received infected stock from the property
  • a manager is assigned to work closely with the farmer(s) to implement the plan
  • MPI response team members are alerted that a possible case of FMD is being investigated.

Laboratory confirmation triggers immediate response

Diagnosis of FMD triggers a whole-of-government biosecurity response that is led by MPI:

  • The World Organisation for Animal Health and international markets are notified, and trade in FMD susceptible animal products is suspended.
  • Officials and key stakeholders are briefed (national and regional).
  • A National Livestock Standstill is declared through a Controlled Area Notice, banning the movement of all susceptible animals and their semen and embryos across New Zealand.
  • In the areas immediately around the infected property, a High Risk Area is declared (also through Controlled Area Notices). This prohibits movement of stock and risk goods like meat, milk, hides and wool.
  • Police, local and regional councils help to set up checkpoints, road blocks, decontamination stations, compliance patrols and livestock movement bans, particularly around the very high-risk area.
  • New Zealand media and members of the public are briefed and frequently updated, and a public awareness campaign is launched to help people understand:
    • what to do (for example, follow movement restrictions)
    • the consequences of not following requirements.
  • All livestock and risk good movements on and off infected properties are traced to find other potential sites with FMD.
  • Stock on infected farms and, possibly, on farms that are likely to have been exposed to the virus, are humanely destroyed and disposed of. Note, this applies only to susceptible species. Horses, poultry, dogs and cats are not affected.
  • Sites, vehicles and other high-risk items are decontaminated.

Who to contact

If you think you've seen a case of FMD, call your local vet immediately – they will contact MPI's pest and disease hotline. If a vet isn't available, contact our hotline directly on 0800 80 99 66.

If you have questions about FMD, email 

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