6 May 2011

Mass culls may not be necessary against foot and mouth

6:21 pm on 6 May 2011

A new report says that mass culling of infected animals to halt the spread of foot and mouth disease may be unnecessary.

Research published in the international Science magazine says cattle afflicted with the virus are infectious for less than two days - about half as long as previously thought.

It suggests that control measures, such as killing large numbers of livestock, could be reduced.

The report says that on average, livestock are not infectious until half a day after clinical signs such as fever, nasal discharge and lesions on the tongue and feet appear.

In 2001, an outbreak of foot and mouth in Britain led to as many as 10 million animals being slaughtered, costing the British economy more than $20 billion.

If the disease reached New Zealand, it would stop all exports of meat and dairy products and cost the country an estimated $6 billion in its first year.

No major change expected

A former Professor of Animal Health at Massey University believes the report will not lead to major changes in the way authorities respond to outbreaks of the disease.

Roger Morris says the research is interesting new information but won't have an impact on overall foot and mouth control strategies pr stop infected animals being culled.

Dr Morris was involved in the control of the outbreak of foot and mouth in Britain in 2001 and says the new research would have had only a marginal impact on the response there.

Dr Morris says no live research work on foot and mouth is carried out in New Zealand or Australia due to the risk of having the disease even in contained facilities.

MAF Biosecurity stores vaccine material for foot and mouth in case of an outbreak in New Zealand.