Foot-and-Mouth FAQ

Answers to your questions about the news.
March 14 2001 4:54 PM

Foot-and-Mouth FAQ

Why must animals with foot-and-mouth disease, or those that might have been exposed to foot-and-mouth disease, be destroyed?

Advertisement

Primarily for economic reasons. The disease, which causes painful, ulcerating blisters on the mouth, feet, and udders, is virulently contagious, and once introduced can quickly infect an entire herd. Though foot-and-mouth only kills about 5 percent of its animal victims, it causes rapid weight loss, miscarriage, and reduction in milk production. There is no treatment, but most animals can recover in a matter of weeks, though they are often left debilitated. Since livestock animals do not have the actuarial potential of say, a Strom Thurmond, it is not worth it to farmers to nurse back to health hogs, which are slaughtered at 6 months; or cattle, which are slaughtered after about two years. And because any country experiencing an outbreak may well be banned from the export market, total eradication is an economic necessity.

What causes foot-and-mouth disease?

An extremely persistent virus, theapthovirus, first identified in 1897, of which there are seven strains. The virus can be spread through direct contact or through the air, and can live in the environment--on clothes or hay or even in human nasal passages--for a month. Heat, chemical disinfection, or lack of moisture can kill the virus. Freezing does not.

Since it's a virus, isn't there a vaccine? 

Yes, but it conveys only about six months immunity, making it very expensive to keep livestock vaccinated. Also, there are questions about whether the vaccine confers complete protection.

What animals are affected?

Cloven-hoofed livestock, such as cattle, swine, pigs, sheep, and goats; and wild animals such as deer, llama, and camels. Elephants are also susceptible. Horses, humans, and most carnivores are highly resistant.

But isn't there a human form of the disease?

It's another disease caused by another virus with a similar name. Young children in particular can contract hand, foot, and mouth disease. It causes fever, malaise, and blisters in the mouth. It usually clears up on its own within 10 days.

TODAY IN SLATE

Frame Game

Hard Knocks

I was hit by a teacher in an East Texas public school. It taught me nothing.

Republicans Like Scott Walker Are Building Campaigns Around Problems That Don’t Exist

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

The Best Way to Organize Your Fridge

The World

Iran and the U.S. Are Allies

They’re just not ready to admit it yet.

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

Chief Justice John Roberts Says $1,000 Can’t Buy Influence in Congress. Looks Like He’s Wrong.

Farewell! Emily Bazelon on What She Will Miss About Slate.

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 16 2014 2:11 PM Spare the Rod What Charles Barkley gets wrong about corporal punishment and black culture.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 16 2014 2:35 PM Germany’s Nationwide Ban on Uber Lasted All of Two Weeks
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 1:27 PM The Veronica Mars Spinoff Is Just Amusing Enough to Keep Me Watching
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 1:48 PM Why We Need a Federal Robotics Commission
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 16 2014 1:39 PM The Case of the Missing Cerebellum How did a Chinese woman live 24 years missing part of her brain?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.