Foot-and-mouth disease sparks US reaction

March 16, 2001 — With foot-and-mouth disease wreaking havoc overseas, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has temporarily prohibited the importation of livestock, fresh meat and related products and ruminants from Europe.

Also, USDA officials have been asking airline passengers who report that they had been on farms in disease-heavy areas of Europe to dip their shoes in a bleach or sodium-carbonate solution.

Foot-and-mouth disease has reached crisis proportions in England, where some farmers have been forced to slaughter their entire stocks of cattle, sheep, or pigs. To date, more than 80,000 hoofed animals have been culled for slaughter in Britain alone. Though foot-and-mouth disease is not known to harm humans, but humans who have been in sustained contact with infected soil can spread it.

Until recently, a typical day at Logan Airport would see perhaps only one passenger stop to disinfect his or her shoes at the airport’s tiny antiseptic station – usually after a trip to a remote farm village in Africa or Asia, The Boston Globe reported today.

With growing concerns that the latest livestock disease striking fear across the United Kingdom and parts of Western Europe could surface in the United States, airline passengers arriving from the British countryside are being asked to submit to a low-key disinfectant procedure at Logan.

But since news of the European outbreak grabbed banner headlines and sent worry across the EU community, daily traffic to the airport pitstop has increased tenfold, especially among the 1,300 or so passengers arriving from the United Kingdom, USDA officials say.

“Either people are afraid to speak up, or people don’t think they were in the areas of concern,” said USDA inspector Donna Fernandes.

The foot-and-mouth outbreak has caused such a stir in Boston as to swamp the USDA’s cramped Logan office with a constant stream of phone calls, workers there say. Director Richard Mytkowicz estimates that he has spent 80 percent of his time in the past week responding to foot-and-mouth inquiries.


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