Hosting international visitors on a livestock farm
Foot and Mouth Disease is a highly contagious viral disease of livestock that can be transferred via clothing, manure on boots and from the lungs of humans.
It is important to keep the health of animals on your farm safe when hosting guests, which may include telling some visitors no or restricting access to certain areas. There are several foreign animal diseases of concern. Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) is the main disease of concern. FMD is a highly contagious viral disease of livestock that can be transferred via clothing, manure on boots and from the lungs of humans, although humans are not affected.
FMD is found in all excretions and secretions from infected animals. Animals can recover from the infection, but may still be carriers of the disease. The virus easily spreads via saliva, milk, semen, meat or animal products not properly cooked, by aerosol via air currents, hay, feed, water, clothing or equipment. To eradicate the disease, infected herds are disposed of. In 2001, an eight month FMD outbreak in The United Kingdom resulted in the slaughter of over 4 million sheep, cattle, goats and pigs as part of the disease control efforts.
Foot and Mouth Disease is endemic in several parts of Asia, most of Africa and in the Middle East. In Latin America, the majority of countries have implemented zoning and are FMD free with or without vaccination. Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Central and North America and continental Western Europe are currently free of FMD and do not practice vaccination.
The World Organization for Animal Health has established an official list of Foot and Mouth Free countries and zones with or without vaccinations. If someone has been to another country in the last seven days that is not on the list of disease free countries without vaccination, do not let them onto the farm without gathering more information about when they were last on a farm. If you are aware that visitors are coming from another country, plan ahead and send them a request to observe the seven day rule. If you have walk on visitors, signage stating the seven day rule can help screen visitors whole have been out of the U.S. recently.
Whenever there are visitors on your farm, it is wise to practice good biosecurity, including having visitors wear protective shoe covers and avoid walking in sensitive areas to stop the spread of many common diseases, not just FMD. Disposable shoe covers are inexpensive and can be readily found at farm supply stores or on-line.