Foot and Mouth Disease - What to expect if your animals may be infected

This page is part of the Guidance Document Repository (GDR).

Looking for related documents?
Search for related documents in the Guidance Document Repository

Introduction

This brochure provides Canadian livestock producers with information about what happens when foot and mouth disease (FMD) is suspected or detected on their farm.

About FMD

FMD is a severe, highly contagious viral disease of cattle and swine. It can also affect sheep, goats, deer and other cloven-hoofed ruminants. While there is no public health or food safety risks associated with FMD, an outbreak of the disease can have devastating effects on the entire Canadian economy. FMD results in decreased animal productivity and reduced marketability of Canadian livestock and related products due to widespread international trade restrictions.

In Canada, FMD is a "federally reportable disease." This means that producers or veterinarians must notify the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) of all suspected cases.

The disease is characterized by fever and blister-like sores on the tongue and lips, in the mouth, on the teats and between the hooves. Most affected animals recover, but the disease leaves them weakened and debilitated.

FMD control

The CFIA takes immediate disease control actions in response to FMD. While all disease response situations are different, the steps involved in FMD response normally include the following:

  • quarantine;
  • investigation;
  • destruction and disposal;
  • cleaning and disinfection; and
  • compensation.

Quarantine

Suspicion of FMD

If animals are suspected of being infected with FMD, a CFIA staff member (usually the district veterinarian) will visit the premises to meet with you. At that time, the premises will be declared an "infected place" and precautionary movement restrictions will be put in place. The CFIA employee will provide you with documentation outlining the rules of the declaration and the movement restrictions, and discuss your responsibilities. He or she will also answer any questions you may have.

Movement restrictions are necessary to control the potential spread of the disease. FMD is highly contagious and can spread rapidly through close contact between animals, as well as on contaminated equipment, clothing and footwear, on contaminated material such as hay and feed, or on contaminated raw meat that is fed to susceptible animals. In addition, FMD can spread by the air (virus excreted in the breath of an infected animal then carried through the air to other livestock).

During the movement restrictions, all animals, animal products and by-products, feed, manure, hay, straw, vehicles and equipment are prohibited from moving on or off the affected property, unless authorized by the CFIA.

While the property is under a declaration, you are also responsible to:

  • maintain fences and gates around the premises to control the movement of animals and animal products;
  • inform all persons entering the premises of the declaration;
  • control the movements of people, equipment and vehicles to prevent FMD spread off the premises;
  • report all sick and dying animals, and any that escape the farm;
  • implement pest control and report any wild animals that enter the premises; and
  • clean and disinfect all tools and equipment that may have been exposed to infected animals.

When FMD is suspected, a precautionary declaration of an infected place is also immediately placed on all premises with susceptible animals within a 5-km radius to control movement.

Confirmation of FMD

If FMD is confirmed, disease-control measures are heightened, both on the infected premises and in the surrounding areas. Signs indicating that the property is a disease control area will also be provided by the CFIA. In addition, strict disease control measures will be applied to all animals, people, vehicles and equipment. These measures include the following:

  • clean clothing and footwear must be worn when leaving the premises;
  • workers in contact with animals or contaminated material must shower prior to leaving the premises;
  • properties with susceptible animals must not be visited by anyone from the infected premises;
  • susceptible animals may not be moved on or off the premises;
  • dogs, cats and other household pets must be confined;
  • vehicles and equipment must be properly cleaned and disinfected before leaving the premises; and
  • poultry and horses (non susceptible animals) may only be moved under license to slaughter at a federally inspected abattoir or to another premises where there are no susceptible animals.

Investigation

Once the declaration is in place, CFIA staff will immediately begin assessing the health of all animals on the farm. This includes taking samples from animals for laboratory testing and analysis. They will also review records to determine any recent movements of animals onto or off of the farm. To help CFIA staff in their investigation, you may be asked to provide the following:

  • herd inventory records;
  • veterinary records and laboratory reports;
  • a detailed description of premises management practices including a biosecurity plan;
  • records of purchase/sale of animals including those sent to slaughter;
  • information on any movement of equipment, vehicles, stock trucks, etc.;
  • records of animal movement to and from shows, fairs, etc.;
  • a list of visitors (logbooks if available);
  • a map of the premises; and
  • contact information for the local veterinarian.

Using records and other information provided, CFIA staff trace the movements of all susceptible livestock, vehicles, equipment and visitors who may have come into contact with the infected animal(s). This includes locating animals that have recently moved off the farm, and examining movement records of the infected animal(s). These activities help determine if there are other properties that need to be investigated.

Your cooperation and that of any other parties involved is critical to the success of the investigation and ultimately control of the disease.

Destruction and disposal

When FMD is confirmed, the CFIA district veterinarian issues an "order for destruction."

All animals on the premises that are susceptible to FMD are humanely destroyed. Given the rapid spreading nature of the disease, it is critical that destruction of susceptible animals happens as quickly as possible, in order to minimize disease spread by aerosol or contaminated material even if animals are confined. In addition, all animal products, manure, feed, materials and equipment that is contaminated and not suitable for cleaning and disinfection will be ordered destroyed.

Animal carcasses, animal products, manure, feed, materials and equipment ordered destroyed will be disposed of on the farm, or in some cases at another secure site.

The method for disposal may differ from one site to another, depending on the local conditions. A common method is burial.* The method chosen will both minimize the potential for disease spread and the impact to the environment. The costs of destruction, disposal and transportation of animals and things ordered destroyed may be covered by the CFIA.

*Burial must comply with provincial and municipal waste management requirements.

Cleaning and disinfection

Once all destruction and disposal activities have been completed, the premises must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, in accordance with international standards. This process includes cleaning and disinfecting all hard surfaces, structures, tools, equipment and vehicles. Areas on the premises where infected animals were present, including pastures, will be left empty for a period of time to ensure elimination of the virus before restocking.

The CFIA district veterinarian will assist you in developing an effective cleaning and disinfection plan. Cleaning and disinfection costs are your responsibility.

Compensation

Under the Health of Animals Act, the CFIA may compensate owners of livestock operations for animals ordered destroyed during disease response situations. Compensation awards are based on market value, up to the maximum amounts established by the regulations.

For more details on the compensation process, please see the brochure Animal Health Compensation: What to expect when an animal is ordered destroyed.

Removal of quarantine

Once cleaning and disinfection is complete, the CFIA evaluates the premises to determine when movement restrictions specific to your farm may be removed.

Following removal of the specific movement restrictions on your farm, you may introduce new animals to the premises in accordance with the requirements of the movement controls that may still be in effect for the surrounding area.

Confidentiality

As directed by the Privacy Act and other federal statutes, the CFIA is required to protect private information collected. Any information provided by you during a disease response situation is treated as confidential, unless otherwise indicated.

More information about FMD

For more information on Canada's approach to controlling and eradicating FMD, visit www.inspection.gc.ca

Date modified: