FMD is a highly infectious disease of cloven-hoofed animals, caused by the virus Aphthae epizooticae. It’s not to be confused with hand, foot and mouth disease which is a human disease caused by a different virus. The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) tells us why FMD is a notifiable disease in Britain. Why, twelve years ago, our farming industry was devastated by a mass cull of livestock infected by A. epizooticae. Here’s a list of notifiable diseases affecting livestock in Britain.
But there’s already a vaccine! It’s made by attenuating the live virus. That means that the vaccine is alive, and it triggers the animal’s immune response, but it almost never causes disease. You can scroll down the UAR page to see a map of where that vaccine is being used in the world. Mostly in developing countries, not in rich countries.
When I discuss FMD in Britain a question often comes up: why not vaccinate? Here’s why. With the existing vaccine, you can’t tell a vaccinated cow, sheep or pig from one that’s infecting other animals. Other countries in Europe didn’t want to accept livestock imports from Britain while we had FMD. Therefore, farmers couldn’t export livestock as usual.
Soon the new vaccine might make that debate redundant. The new vaccine is a modified version of the protein which forms the viral ‘coat’. Due to the modification, this isn’t a live virus and it can’t cause disease as the existing vaccine occasionally can. The new vaccine isn’t yet approved for use here in Britain or anywhere else, but we can hope.
Here’s an article from a North American news outlet, Fox News, about progress in developing the new vaccine.