ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
Date:  2 March 2001


Items 1 & 2 are from Helen Baczkowska and relates to the implications and lessons, including for GM trials and our own behaviour, of the current severe outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease [FMD] in the UK which has led among much else to the closure of all the Farming Wildlife Trust
reserves.  Item 3 is analysis.

1.     Wildlife specialist Helen B on FMD
2.     About FMD - what it is and what to do

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1. Implications of FMD


I think it is worth campaigners having a bit of an understanding of the nature of this disease - I suggest people visit the animal health section of the MAFF website for the full low down [see url in item 2 below].

In answer to your question, the disease (supposedly the most infectious animal disease known) affects mainly cloven-hooved creatures. So all wild deer populations are at risk. For some reason, it also affect hedgehogs and elephants. The main problem is not the effects of the disease iteslf - it is a bit like human flu, in that it is not usually fatal, except to frail, old or young animals. Like flu, it is the risk to these creatures that is one reason to contain it. Itís main problem is that it is very debilitating - the animals will recover to normal within a month, but in that time, all production will have all but stopped.

The problem with wild creatures is the way they can spread the disease - almost anything can carry it, even a road surface, vehicle, human (it can live in the human nose for a week) and it loves cold damp conditions.

The wildlife trusts are speaking out now against a rumoured cull of wild animals in infected areas; if wild animals are infected, it is likely the disease will disappear in time as immunity builds up; scattering wild creatures, especially deer, by hunting them, could spread the disease, as could the shooters out culling. As anything can carry the disease, a cull seems a bit pointless to us (as well as catastrophic to wildlife!).

A ban on field trials of crops would seem a wise move to avoid unnecessary entry on farm land and all activists should think hard about entering farm land at present - it would be a politically and currently illegal action!

FMD serious questions about the farming industry, rather than farm conditions. Although farm conditions are sometimes a factor early on, when it is this serious and possibly airbourne, it is much more complicated than that. One county Wildlife Trust, with over 500 native, virtually organic sheep that merely graze nature reserves for their keep has had a confirmed outbreak. Those animals would be out of doors and possibly the healthiest in their county.

The issues to be raised are the closing of local abattoirs under EU guidelines heavily enforced by
the UK govt in the early 90s, live export and why, in the mid 1980ís, the UK govt campaigned vociferously for an end to FMD vaccination (they claim it is too expensive and limits exports).

Please circulate this info if you wish - I think this outbreak is going to inform our thinking about farming for a little while to come.

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2. About FMD - More information from Helen (put together at an early stage in the outbreak - it is now more widespread):

What is it?
A highly infectious and notifiable viral disease. The current outbreak is thought to be the most contagious strain known. It is very rare for people to contract the disease and it is unlikely to be fatal. The disease is often not fatal to adult animals, but the precautions are essential to stop the spread.

Where has it occurred in the UK?
The first outbreak this month was in an abattoir in Brentwood Essex; since then, others have occurred in Bucks, Isle of Wight, Surrey, Gloucestershire, Tyne & Wear.

In these areas, the order made by MAFF inhibits the movements of all animals into, out of and within an 8k radius of the farm. The Essex abattoir has a 10-mile exclusion zone. These orders apply to cattle, sheep, goats, all other ruminating animals, swine and elephants. Horses
are not presently covered by the order, although they carry the disease.

Although there are no restrictions in place in Norfolk at present, the infectious nature of the disease means we must adopt a precautionary approach.

How is it spread?
FMD can be spread by direct or indirect (airborne contact) with an infected animal, or anything contaminated by the animal. This can include feeding or watering troughs, cattle trucks, passing vehicles and clothing of handlers or walkers. Any person who has attended diseased animals can spread the disease; cats, dogs, vermin, poultry, deer and wild game can carry infected material.

Heat, low humidity and certain disinfectants can kill the virus; it can remain active at low temperatures and thrives in damp conditions.

What stock does it affect?
Animals affected by the disease include cattle, sheep, pigs and goats; some wild animals such as hedgehogs, rats and deer. Zoo animals, especially elephants, are affected too.

It would appear that any animal could carry infected material Ė this means they are not affected, but carry the virus externally.

What are symptoms?
Cattle slobbering & smacking lips, shivering, tender & sore feet, reduced milk yield, sores and blisters on feet, raised temperature.

Sheep sudden, severe lameness, lies down frequently and unwilling to rise, stands in half-crouching position when forced to stand with hind legs brought forward, reluctant to move. Blisters on hoof where horn joins skin and in the mouth in some cases.

Pigs sudden lameness, prefers to lameness, hobbles and squeals when made to move, blisters on hoof where skin and horn meet, blisters on snout or tongue possible.

Do not inspect animals that appear to show these symptoms
Where to get further information
MAFF web site:
Gives information on the disease and where it is occurring. This is
updated daily.

MAFF help line for general advice 0845 0504141
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