September 30, 2003
EU Sets New Rules Governing Foot-And-Mouth Disease
European Union farm ministers Monday approved new regulations intended to curb economic damage from future outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease by using vaccination earlier and creating a system of combating the disease on a regional basis.
The new directive keeps the existing ban on vaccinating farm animals when no sign the disease is present, but it allows precautionary vaccinations to occur when outbreaks are detected and it gives E.U. countries more authority to restrict livestock movements regionally when the disease is suspected but not yet confirmed.
E.U. Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne said the new regulations take into account the fact that it is now possible to distinguish vaccinated animals from animals that are infected with the highly contagious disease. This due to the fact that the vaccines use antibodies generated from the disease itself. This had created major problems for livestock trade, usually involving bans on livestock exports from the affected country even though many of the animals could be healthy but vaccinated.
E.U. nations will also be able to act against the disease on a regional basis if it is determined that outbreaks are isolated to specific areas. This would allow trade to continue in livestock and livestock products from unaffected areas of the same country.
An epidemic of foot-and-mouth disease several years ago in the U.K. caused billions of dollars in damage to the country's farming and tourism industries. Livestock trade was banned for months, and restrictions were imposed on the movements of both animals and humans that could act as carriers of the disease.