Foot and Mouth Disease Fact Sheet
The following information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is being shared with Americans traveling overseas so they may be informed of the steps necessary to help prevent the introduction of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) into the United States. While FMD rarely affects humans, it can cause death or permanent disability in the animals it affects, and can cause severe losses in the production of meat and milk.
Further information and updates on FMD can be found on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's travel web site and the Centers for Disease Control's web site. Travelers going to certain states may face additional restrictions or requirements imposed by the state governments, and should also check with the respective state agricultural agencies for further information.
FMD is a highly contagious viral disease that primarily affects cattle, swine, and other cloven-hoofed animals. It is able to spread rapidly, and has grave economic as well as clinical consequences for agriculture in regions where the disease occurs. According to the USDA, there has not been an outbreak of FMD in the United States since 1929.
FMD is not of public health significance because humans rarely contract the disease and it causes few or mild symptoms in humans when it does occur. However, humans can unknowingly transmit the virus to susceptible animals if they come in contact with infected livestock, soil, or objects that have been contaminated with the FMD virus. The virus can easily be carried on clothing, shoes and personal items. Humans exposed to FMD virus can also harbor the virus in their throat or nasal passages for several days. For these reasons, all visits to farm and other livestock facilities in FMD-infected areas and all food items and other materials of plant or animal origin in a traveler's possession must be reported on the U.S. Customs declaration form upon entering the United States.
To prevent the accidental introduction of FMD into the United States, USDA recommends that travelers returning to the U.S. from FMD-infected countries take the following measures:
Avoid farms, sale barns, stockyards, animal laboratories, packing houses, zoos, fairs or other animal facilities for five days prior to travel.
Before travel to the U.S., launder or dry-clean all clothing and outerwear. All dirt and soil should be removed from shoes by thorough cleaning prior to wiping with cloth dampened with a bleach solution (5 teaspoons of household bleach in one gallon of water). Luggage and personal items (including watches, cameras, laptops, CD players and cell phones), if soiled, should be wiped with a cloth dampened with a bleach solution.
Avoid contact with livestock or wildlife for 5 days after arrival in the United States. Extra precautionary measures should be taken by people traveling from farms in infected locales to visit or work on farms in the United States. It is advisable that employers or sponsors provide arriving travelers with a clean set of clothing that can be worn after the visitor showers and shampoos thoroughly. Visitors' traveling clothes should be laundered or dry-cleaned immediately. Off-farm activities should be scheduled for the visitors' first five days in-country and contact with livestock or wildlife should be strictly avoided.
Importation of any animal and plant products may be restricted or require an import permit. For more information, travelers may check with the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) at the following numbers: (301) 734-8364 or fax to (301) 734-6402 (for importation of animals) or (301) 734-3277 or fax to (301) 734-8226 (for importation of animal products). Travelers may also visit the APHIS National Center for Import and Export Internet home page for more information.
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Check your overseas medical insurance coverage: Ask your medical insurance company if your policy applies overseas, and if it covers emergency expenses such as medical evacuation. If it does not, consider supplemental insurance.