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Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD)
Questions and Answers

Public/Travellers | Disease Control in Canada (includes Vaccination)


Q1. What is being done to prevent foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) from entering Canada?

Strict measures are in place to prevent FMD from entering Canada. For example, live animals are subject to comprehensive import controls. Only cooked, commercially prepared, hermetically sealed meat is allowed into Canada from countries that have FMD.

Travellers entering Canada are required to declare all foods, plants,animals and their products to a Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officer. The CBSA plays a key role in protecting food safety, animal health, and the environment by screening travellers to make sure they understand the risk of importing inadmissible products and to ensure that they are complying with Canadian requirements. Border services officers also use specially trained detector dog teams in all major airports to seek out concealed food, plant, and animal products.

Q2. What do we mean by a FMD-infected country?

Any country that has at least one confirmed case of FMD would be considered infected. A list of countries that are recognized by the CFIA as being free of FMD can be found here.

Q3. Are people and animals allowed to travel from FMD-infected countries to Canada?

Yes, people and their pets are free to travel, as long as they take appropriate precautions as recommended by the CFIA

Livestock and animal products such as fresh meat, embryos, semen, milk products, wool, hides and skins from susceptible species may not move from FMD-infected countries to Canada unless they have been processed in order to destroy the FMD virus.

Q4. If I travel in a country infected by FMD, what precautions should I follow?

The CFIA recommends that you:

  • Avoid visiting farms in countries infected with FMD. If you visited a farm while abroad, declare it to the CBSA. Make sure that the clothing and footwear you wore during your visit are free from soil or manure. Clean and disinfect your footwear. Dry cleaning of clothes is recommended.
  • Declare all meat, dairy or other animal products that you are bringing back to Canada to the CBSA.
  • Avoid contact with susceptible animals, including farm and zoo animals, and wildlife in national or provincial parks, for 14 days after returning to Canada.

Q5. Are pet dogs and cats allowed into Canada from FMD-infected countries?

Although domestic pets are not susceptible to FMD, the CFIA recommends taking precautions for pets travelling with you from a FMD-infected country. Once you return to Canada, wash your pet thoroughly with shampoo or soap and water to eliminate any virus that may be carried on it.

Q6. How can I disinfect my belongings?

To disinfect your clothes, you can machine wash them in hot water, or have them dry cleaned. To clean and disinfect footwear and other items, you can soak the items in the following solutions:

  • 50 percent water and 50 percent vinegar for 30 minutes;
  • 100 g of sodium carbonate (washing soda) per litre of water for 30 minutes; or
  • 2 g of citric acid powder per litre of water for 30 minutes.

When followed closely, these disinfection procedures are sufficient to kill the FMD virus.

Q7. What else is the CFIA doing to reduce the risk of bringing FMD virus into Canada?

The CFIA is monitoring the status of FMD worldwide and is working with other federal departments, provincial veterinary authorities, and industry to exchange information and raise awareness, as well as providing the public with information through its Web site.

Q8. How is FMD spread?

FMD is highly contagious. The virus can be spread to healthy livestock through:

  • direct or indirect contact with infected animals, the fluid from their blisters, their blood, saliva, milk or manure, or contact with surfaces (for example, trucks, loading ramps, and roads) where the virus is present;
  • feed made with ingredients derived from infected animals, or feed that has come into contact with infected animals;
  • contact with footwear, clothing or equipment contaminated with the virus;
  • contact with virus that has become airborne. Under favourable climatic conditions, FMD may be spread considerable distances by this route.

Q9. Can I contract FMD?

As a general rule, people do not get this disease. Under certain conditions, however, transmission to humans has occurred and results in no more than a light rash. FMD should not be confused with a different human disease called hand, Foot-and-mouth disease. You should consult your local health authority or your physician if you have any specific concerns.

Q10. I will be travelling to a FMD-infected country -- can I bring any food products back?

The CFIA will allow entry into Canada only those products that have been subjected to an approved processing method. You must declare all food products upon arrival in Canada. As a general rule, meat and dairy products will not be allowed from an infected country, but foods that are cooked, shelf stable, commercially prepared and hermetically sealed may be permitted.

Q11. What happens if I do not declare any such products in my possession?

The CBSA can impose penalties of up to $400 on the spot if prohibited or restricted items are not declared. Individuals who are caught smuggling such items will have the product seized and could face further enforcement actions ranging from fines to prosecution in the criminal courts. False declarations to the CBSA are also punishable by law.

Q12. If I travel and am a farmer, do I have to respect the 5-day quarantine?

Contact with farm animals is not recommended for 5 days. If you are travelling to an FMD-infected country and returning to your farm, the CFIA's recommendations on cleaning and disinfection should be strictly followed.

Q13. Canadian troops train and serve in FMD-infected countries. What precautions are we taking to make sure military personnel and equipment do not introduce FMD?

All troops, personal effects, and equipment entering Canada are subject to strict procedures for cleaning and disinfection to prevent the transmission of FMD.

The Department of National Defence has developed, in co-operation with the CFIA and the CBSA, a national directive on biosecurity measures for incoming personnel, personal effects and equipment.

Disease Control in Canada (includes Vaccination)

Q14. Does the CFIA have an emergency preparedness/response plan in place for animal health emergencies?

Emergency preparedness is a key part of what the CFIA does. Animal health emergency management plans provide for a swift response in the event of a foreign disease outbreak. The CFIA has developed a detailed emergency response plan entitled: "Hazard Specific Plan," which is revised regularly to improve its response capability.

Q15. Would Canada be ready to act if an outbreak of FMD occurred?

Canada is ready to act rapidly and effectively to control and eradicate FMD. The current strategy is designed to quickly identify all exposed premises, cull exposed and potentially exposed high-risk animals, and decontaminate the environment to avoid further spread. Our goal is to regain Canada's FMD-free status as quickly as possible.

Q16. Who is responsible for controlling the spread of a disease during an outbreak?

Although controlling the spread of a foreign animal disease is a shared responsibility, the CFIA has the lead in implementing a foreign animal disease emergency response plan. This authority is legislated under the Health of Animals Act. Co-operation and support between all levels of government and the livestock industry is key to the successful control and eradication of a disease that could affect the health of Canada's livestock population and the economy.

Q17. What biosecurity practices should livestock producers follow to guard against FMD?

Canadian livestock producers play a key role in protecting animal health. Strict biosecurity practices should always be followed to minimize the introduction and spread of any infectious animal disease, including FMD. Producers can protect the health of their livestock by:

  • restricting visitors' access to animals;
  • preventing animals from coming into contact with wild animals;
  • routinely cleaning and disinfecting, footwear, clothing and equipment;
  • keeping records of the movement of people, animals and equipment on and off the premises;
  • purchasing new animals, feed and supplies from reputable suppliers; and
  • keeping new animals separate from existing animals for at least five days.

Anyone leaving a farm to go to another farm or to attend an event where livestock are present should ensure that their footwear and clothing has been properly cleaned and disinfected prior to departure.

Producers should also ensure that all staff - particularly those who are hired on a seasonal basis - are familiar with principles of biosecurity.

Q18. How would the CFIA dispose of FMD-infected animals?

The CFIA would dispose of affected animals by incineration or burial in agreement with provincial or municipal environment authorities.

Q19. Can I buy vaccine for FMD to vaccinate my animals?

No. FMD vaccine is not available on the market in Canada. Canada's policy does not allow FMD vaccination except in certain clearly defined situations, such as in the face of an overwhelming outbreak. This policy is based on good disease control principles and, at the same time, gives Canada the widest possible access to international trade.

Q20. Why does Canada not vaccinate against FMD?

Canada does not rely on routine vaccination against FMD because:

  1. there are several types of the virus and it is not possible to predict which type Canadian animals may be exposed to from year to year. To maximize their effectiveness, vaccines must be targeted to the specific type of FMD that is present;
  2. if an animal is exposed to the virus shortly after vaccination, it may become a carrier and spread the virus without showing any signs of infection;
  3. vaccination is not effective in a small percentage of animals;
  4. for most animals, two vaccinations at prescribed intervals are required, although this depends upon the species and the effectiveness of the vaccine for the particular virus. This is time-consuming and expensive for producers;
  5. routine blood tests cannot distinguish vaccinated animals from infected animals, and therefore vaccinated animals and their products would not meet export requirements for most of Canada's trading partners;
  6. producers and veterinarians would not become aware that the disease had entered the country as quickly as they would if every animal were susceptible and showed signs of the disease.

Q21. What would be the effect on trade if we were to vaccinate before the disease is detected?

If Canada were to routinely vaccinate against FMD, we would lose our status as "FMD-free without vaccination". This would have significant trade repercussions since most industrialized countries, including the U.S. restrict imports from countries that practice FMD vaccination, even if they can prove that they do not have FMD.

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the world standard-setting body for international trade in animals, lists countries and zones of the world that have met criteria with respect to FMD. Canada and its major trading partners are on the "FMD free without vaccination" list.

Q22. Would Canada consider vaccinating if FMD entered the country?

Yes, after careful consideration, Canada may "emergency vaccinate", as was done in parts of Europe during the 2001 outbreak there. Vaccination is considered to be the third line of defence, after prevention and disease control. In some circumstances, vaccination may reduce the number of animals that have to be slaughtered in the long term.

Q23. If we had an outbreak, how long would it be before our trading partners accepted our FMD-free status again and resumed trade? How long would it be if we didn't vaccinate? How long would it be if we did vaccinate?

While many factors will come into play when a country considers whether to start importing from a country that has experienced an outbreak of FMD, we (or our trading partners) will be guided in part by the OIE guidelines stating:

  • when FMD occurs in an FMD free country or zone where vaccination is not practiced, the following waiting periods are required to regain FMD free status:
    1. 3 months after the last case, where stamping-out and serological surveillance are applied; or
    2. 3 months after the slaughter of the last vaccinated animal where stamping-out, serological surveillance and emergency vaccination are applied.

To regain "FMD free without vaccination" status, all the vaccinated animals must be tracked and eventually be slaughtered.

Q24. What would be the trade implications for Canada if we were to opt for control with vaccination and did not slaughter vaccinated animals?

If we did not slaughter vaccinated animals after an outbreak of FMD, we would be listed by the OIE as a country that is "FMD free with vaccination." We would be unable to export certain commodities to our major trading partners since most industrialized countries, including the U.S., restrict imports from countries that practice FMD vaccination, even if they can prove that they do not have FMD.

Production of meat and animal products for export is a very significant part of Canada's economy, and one that we wish to protect. It is in our best interests to maintain our current status as "FMD-free without vaccination".

Q25. If we decide to vaccinate, would we be able to get enough vaccine? Would it be the right vaccine?

Canada, the U.S., and Mexico are the members of the North American Foot-and-Mouth Disease Vaccine Bank. The purpose of the bank is to hold FMD concentrated antigens, which can be finished into vaccine in the event of a FMD outbreak in one of the member countries. Vaccines specific to the virus entering Canada would have to be requested.

Q26. Is any FMD vaccine produced in North America?

The North American Foot-and-Mouth Disease Vaccine Bank is located in North America, but it only holds frozen, concentrated antigens. These do not pose a health risk. In the event of an outbreak, the antigens would be sent to Europe to be reformulated into vaccine.

Q27. Is there compensation available to Canadians for animals that may be destroyed due to FMD?

The federal government provides financial compensation to owners whose animals are ordered destroyed under the Health of Animals Act as part of an official program to control or eradicate diseases considered a threat to Canada's livestock population. The goal of compensation is to encourage owners to report disease in their herds and flocks at the first sign, to prevent or reduce the spread of disease, to allow trace back to the source, and to help owners rebuild their herds.

Owners are awarded the market value of each animal ordered destroyed, up to a maximum amount prescribed in legislation. These maximum amounts vary by species.