IMPORTANT LEGAL NOTICE : The information on this site is subject to a disclaimer and a copyright notice.

Animal Health and Welfare
EUROPA > European Commission > DG Health and Consumer Protection > Overview > Animal Health and Welfare  Site Map | What's New | A to Z Index | Mailbox
Foot-and-Mouth Disease

Description - Control measures: 2001 Epidemic - Press Releases


Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is a highly contagious, usually non-fatal viral disease of domestic and wild cloven-hoofed animals, but may also affect certain other species. It is widely distributed throughout the world. Animals recovered from the disease may remain carriers of the infectious virus for an extended period of time. FMD is not dangerous to humans, but has a great potential for causing severe economic losses in susceptible animals.

Causative agent : FMD is caused by a non-enveloped Aphtovirus of the family Picornaviridae, existing in seven distinct serotypes of FMD virus, namely, O, A, C, SAT 1, SAT 2, SAT 3 and Asia 1, most of them with many more subtypes. Infection or vaccination with one serotype, or in some cases even a different sub-type of the same serotype, does not confer immunity against another.

Transmission : the virus is spread easily by animated and non-animated vectors, notably the incubating or clinically affected animal or its products, but may also spread airborne over substantial distances.

FMD, characterised by a vesicular condition of the feet, buccal mucosa and, in females, the mammary glands, cannot be differentiated clinically from other vesicular diseases.

Laboratory diagnosis, including isolation of the virus, detection of viral antigen or nucleic acid or of specific humoral antibody, of any suspected FMD case is therefore a matter of urgency.

Vaccination with the use of conventional vaccines protects from disease, but does not prevent infection and consequently a carrier state. The Community adopted therefore in 1990 a policy prohibiting the prophylactic vaccination against FMD.

Prevention : however, in order to further reduce the risk of incursion of the virus from endemic areas, the Community at the same time strengthened the controls at external borders and engaged considerable financial resources to assist third countries in its neighbourhood to control and eradicate the disease.

It is a List A disease, according to the OIE Classification of Diseases. This means it is a transmissible disease that has the potential for very serious and rapid spread, irrespective of national borders, that is of serious socio-economic or public health consequence and that is of major importance in the international trade of animals and animal products.

For more details, click on the OIE technical card on FMD.

Control measures

Community control measures are laid down in Council Directive 2003/85/EC of 29 September 2003 repealing the former Directive 85/511/EEC. The new Directive provides for measures to control and eradicate the disease with the aim to regain the disease and infection free status of the affected territory. The control measures are based on stamping-out of infected and in-contact herds, and on regional restrictions on the movement of susceptible animals and their products. Provisions are made for the use of emergency vaccination. To this end the Community maintains one of the world's biggest antigen banks for express formulation of vaccines.

Member States are obliged to have contingency plans in operation and national reference laboratories must collaborate with the Community Reference Laboratory (yet to be designated).

The 2001 Epidemic

- Main events and list of decisions adopted by the Commission
- The European Parliament's Temporary Committee
- ECOSOC's opinion
- The lessons from the crisis :
International FMD Conference in Brussels 12-13 December 2001
- The new Directive : see Control measures above + press release.

Notification and Health Situation Foot-and-mouth disease is a notifiable disease, according to Council Directive 82/894/EEC of 21 December 1982 on the notification of animal diseases within the Community. Click on ADNS for a description of the notification system and the latest health situation table.

Press Releases
Consumer Voice Newsletter
International Affairs
Import Conditions
Pets and Animal Welfare

Food home page
Animal Health and Welfare home page
Plant Health home page
Food and Veterinary Office home page