USGS issues wildlife health alert for foot-and-mouth disease

Although no cases of foot-and-mouth (FMD) disease have been found in the United States, with the recent outbreaks in the European Union and South America, USGS wildlife health officials recently released a wildlife health alert. The alert advised natural resource and conservation managers that if foot-and-mouth disease were to arrive in the country, some wildlife species are susceptible to the disease. Foot-and-mouth disease could affect United States wildlife such as white-tailed deer, other deer species, feral wild pigs, bison, moose, antelope, peccaries, musk ox, caribou, sheep and elk.

Dr. Scott Wright, chief of the Diagnostic and Field Response Branch at the USGS National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisc., said that disease specialists at the center are closely monitoring and gathering information about the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in Western Europe and South America because of the threat foot-and-mouth disease may pose to North American wildlife. USGS wildlife disease specialists are working with the USDA, the lead agency on the disease, in developing outbreak prevention and containment strategies.

Wright notes that although foot-and-mouth disease is primarily an economically devastating disease of domestic livestock, experimental studies have clearly demonstrated that the disease is also a threat to wildlife. Recent studies have shown that wildlife and domestic animals not only can spread the disease to each other, but also that some wild ungulate (cloven-hoofed) species can become infected and shed the virus without showing any signs of the disease.

According to the USDA, in some countries wild ungulates have continued to be a source of infection to livestock even though other countries have successfully eradicated FMD without active actions to control the disease in wildlife. The difference, says the USDA, may be in the type of wildlife affected. Between 1870 and 1968, wildlife species have been the source of primary outbreaks of

Contact: Dr. Scott Wright
United States Geological Survey

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