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Foot and Mouth Disease Spreads

Foot and Mouth Disease SpreadsTufts expert says risk of an outbreak in the United States has been building for years.

No. Grafton, Mass. [03.23.01] After the U.S. halted all animal and meat imports from the European Union and increased inspections of travelers entering the country from Europe, many farmers in the U.S. have become particularly concerned that foot and mouth disease will surface on American soil.

A Tufts expert told the Boston Herald that the risk of an outbreak in the U.S. has been growing for years.

"I think we were at risk two years ago and 10 years ago, and the risk has been increasing over time with the increase in global traffic," Tufts' Dr. George Saperstein said in the Herald's article.

While the U.S. has not recorded a case of foot and mouth since 1929, the newspaper reported that "up to one-third of the world's nations harbor the virus and have periodic outbreaks."

As Europe addresses its largest outbreak of the disease in decades, the American media have increasingly focused on the impact and costs of the foot and mouth disease.

That attention, Saperstein told the Herald, may play an important role in preventing a U.S. outbreak of the virus.

"The media hype about the foot and mouth disease outbreak going on is a good thing in terms of educating the public," the Tufts expert said. "Anyone traveling to the U.S. from some parts of Africa, the Middle East, Asia or South America who has been on a farm is at risk of spreading the disease."

Veterinarians, says Saperstein, will also play an important role in preventing or managing a foot and mouth disease outbreak.

He told the Boston Globe that many veterinarians are specially trained to recognize and diagnose foreign animal diseases like foot and mouth, making them "the first line of defense."

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