Foot-and-mouth vaccine test studied

If foot-and-mouth disease landed in Canada, there would not be enough vaccine available to protect livestock.

“There are seven distinct types of foot-and-mouth virus and they have unique subtypes so a vaccine might not work,” said consultant Robb McNabb, formerly with the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.

International markets would close automatically and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency would initiate an immediate hazard plan. Animals would be destroyed and others could be vaccinated.

When it comes to destroying animals, it is hard to distinguish between vaccinated and those in contact with the disease.

A new sensitive test has been developed with the ability to differentiate infected from vaccinated animals.

The DIVA test could help Canada get back in business sooner while still having vaccinated animals in the herd, he told the cattlemen’s animal health committee during the beef industry conference held in Calgary Aug. 13-16.

The World Organization for Animal Health has guidelines to reopen trade based on infection and vaccination but it could be catastrophic regardless of the prevalence of the disease. Further, not all countries follow the guidelines for trade when foot and mouth occurs.

Testing and disposal of animals takes time. The stamping out policy involves killing infected animals, those suspected of being affected in the herd and those potentially exposed by direct or indirect contact with those in other herds.

Vaccination could take 18 months depending on whether enough vaccine is available because supply is shared in North America.

The United States, Canada and Mexico formed a vaccine bank in 1982 to maintain antigen concentrates to rapidly finish vaccines. It holds enough vaccination only if the eradication policy alone failed to halt the spread of the disease

“Since 2010, all three countries have included vaccination as part of their emergency response plans,” he said.

Canada has contributed $1.7 million per year since 2008 but agreed to increase funding to $4.2 million.

“Canada’s current allocation is far too low,” said McNabb.

The U.S. approved additional funding in the 2018 farm bill of $150 million over five years to hold 24 different types of antigens in the bank. However, that money may also be used for state work to control any foreign animal disease outbreak affecting beef and dairy cattle as well as swine.

Working groups involving cattle, pork, sheep and goats are analyzing national and regional strategies with government for the use of vaccination for recovery. Continued discussion is needed in industry and government collaboration for an enhanced investment in a vaccine bank for Canada.

“History has clearly shown with the type of coverage we saw in the U.K. in 2001 before Instagram and access to videos, the impact on public confidence in Britain was devastating. Consumers and the public at large are not going to accept the mass destruction and burning of animals that took place then,” he said.

“We have to be cognizant if we are going to maintain public confidence that type of approach is no longer acceptable.”

The last economic impact study on foot-and-mouth disease was run in 2002.

“It has been projected an outbreak of FMD in Canada would have an impact on Canada’s economy of $8.3 to $46 billion but those I would suggest, are fairly dated numbers,” he said.

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