Government of Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Foot and Mouth Disease: Let’s Be Vigilant

July 2, 2010: The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is reminding veterinarians across Canada to consider serious animal diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in their list of differential diagnoses.

The recent outbreaks of FMD in Japan and other Asian countries are strong reminders of the importance of spotting the disease early, and practising sound biosecurity when visiting farms.

“Early detection of contagious diseases such as FMD goes a long way in limiting the effects of an outbreak,” says Dr. Brian Evans, Chief Veterinary Officer for Canada. “As veterinarians, we play a pivotal role in monitoring animals for FMD, and raising awareness of the disease among producers.”

There are no human health or food safety risks associated with FMD; however, it can have devastating animal health, economic and social impacts. FMD was last detected in Canada in 1952.

FMD is a highly contagious viral disease that affects a range of animals including cattle, swine, sheep and goats. Infected animals may exhibit signs of depression, fever, blister-like sores on the tongue and lips, in the mouth, on the teats and between the hooves, foot lesions and loss of appetite or milk production.

Veterinarians are an integral part of the ongoing surveillance for FMD. In Japan, it was a local veterinarian who first identified the signs of the disease and triggered the response to the outbreak. Veterinarians who suspect FMD in livestock should immediately contact the nearest CFIA animal health office. A complete list of animal health offices is available on the CFIA website at, or in the blue pages of the phone book.

On-farm biosecurity is critical to preventing outbreaks of contagious diseases like FMD. The recent FMD outbreak in South Korea began when a farmer returned home after visiting an infected farm in China. The disease was subsequently spread to five other farms by a local veterinarian.

When visiting a farm, veterinarians should be fully aware of, and respect, the farm’s biosecurity practices. These include wearing farm-specific clothing, disinfecting boots, practising good hand hygiene, and cleaning and disinfecting equipment and vehicles (inside and outside) prior to entering and leaving the premises.

Veterinarians are best positioned to offer professional advice on how to improve on-farm biosecurity. Regularly monitoring animal health, establishing guidelines for farm visitors, and recording all farm visits in a visitor’s log are some of the simple practices that can be put in place.

Any person who has been in a country where FMD has been detected should not be granted access to a farm for 14 days. If access is absolutely required, this period may be reduced to a minimum of five days, following extensive personal disinfection.

For more information on FMD and animal biosecurity, including brochures, a poster and a biosecurity video, call the CFIA’s toll-free hotline at 1-800-442-2342 or visit the following CFIA web pages: