Foot and Mouth Disease
Editor’s Note: This is a discussion with Dr. Jessica Jahiel about the transmission of foot and mouth disease and how it relates to horses.
Dear Jessica, what are the chances that someone could bring foot-and-mouth disease to the United States if they spend their vacation riding horses in Ireland? And what would this do to the horses at our home farm? Are there special precautions to take, or would it be better just not to go to Ireland? I need to know this because my husband and I are scheduled to go to Ireland on a riding vacation in two months. We can still cancel at this point, and if our trip could be dangerous to our own horses at home, maybe we ought to cancel. What do you think? We have been looking forward to this trip for three years, it was supposed to be our honeymoon trip (we got married three years ago and couldn’t take the trip then for family reasons). Anyway we are both willing to put the trip off again if going will cause a risk to our horse’s health. I’m not sure that I even want to be anywhere there are horses being put down because of foot-and-mouth disease.
Is it true that Americans can’t bring their horses back into the USA from Europe because they would have to be put down? I’ve heard this but didn’t know if it was true.
Thank you Jessica, we can always count on you for real help.
You are wise not to listen to rumors. I don’t think you need to worry – or to put off your trip any longer. Government-imposed restrictions were very effective in keeping Ireland free of foot-and-mouth disease. As far as I know, there were just a few infected animals found in Northern Ireland, and I believe there has been only ONE infected animal found in the Republic of Ireland.
The disease, in any case, is not transmissible to humans or horses. No horses have been put down, by the way – that’s one of the rumors you are wise to ignore.
You can check with your vet or your county extension agent, who should have access to the latest updates on disease information, but I think you’ll probably find that you can safely go to Ireland and enjoy your riding holiday. In fact, I would think that since you plan to travel in July, you would be able to go just about anywhere, including England and the Continent, without worrying.
If you’re still concerned up to the last minute before your trip, remember that you can also check with the Department of Agriculture (USDA) – your extension agent can get you the necessary contact information.