The old maxim that prevention is better than cure is very relevant when dealing with FMD and other transboundary animal diseases. Import control, including quarantine, is the first line of defence against these serious livestock diseases, and all countries should devote an appropriate level of resources to ensuring that they implement effective border and import quarantine policies and programmes to prevent introduction of these diseases. Because of the infectious nature of FMD and other TADs, often a country's strategy is best served by working in and for a regional strategy or programme.
Risk analyses for FMD should provide an estimate of the degree of risk of introduction of the disease; the most likely mechanisms and portals of FMD entry; and the potential seriousness of the consequences if the disease enters the country. This should provide the basis for designing and implementing appropriately resourced preventive strategies for FMD.
The most important resource in the prevention of FMD (or any other livestock disease) is the informed animal owner or manager. Livestock owners at all levels of production, dealers and traders should be familiarized with the basic features of FMD, including recognizing the essential signs of the disease, the need for urgent action and how and where to seek help if they suspect the disease. This can only be achieved by intensive farmer training, using media that are easily understood, highly visual, and that serve as a constant reminder of the disease and its importance. Lines of communication must be established between livestock owners and the veterinary services, using local authorities and agricultural personnel as intermediaries when necessary, who should also be informed about FMD. It is after all the livestock farmers and/or herders who see their animals every day and, consequently, informed farmers and herders constitute the most important frontline surveillance resource for animal diseases.
The OIE International Animal Health Code, Chapter 2.1.1 on FMD, provides guidelines for the safe importation of live animals, meat and other animal products, germplasm and other risk materials from FMD-free and infected countries and zones.
Import quarantine conditions should be negotiated with exporting countries for the safe importation of the above based on the OIE Code. These may include pre-export testing and quarantine, animal health certification and any necessary post-arrival inspection, testing and quarantine.
Attention should be paid to the provision of adequate quarantine services to intercept foodstuffs and other risk materials containing meat or other animal products brought into the country at international airports and seaports and through border crossing-points. Any confiscated quarantine risk materials should be disposed of safely by deep burial or preferably incineration, as should all food waste from international aircraft and ships and long-distance lorries. The immediate adulteration of confiscated material (e.g. addition of spent motor oil and caustic soda) has been used to ensure that such products are not carried off by unauthorized personnel or disinterred by humans or scavengers.
The uncontrolled movement of animals across national borders presents a particular problem for many countries from an animal health perspective. This often occurs through trading when there is a price differential between countries for live animals or meat. It may also be a result of nomadism, transhumance, civil disruptions or inflow of refugees. The problem is compounded when borders are in difficult terrain or are relatively inaccessible. While efforts should be made to ensure that adequate quarantine provisions are applied for such animals, a degree of sensitivity is required. The application of quarantine restrictions that are too harsh may just encourage smuggling and be counterproductive.
In these circumstances it is recommended that close relations be developed between local animal health authorities, livestock traders and those who are likely to bring animals across borders. This should include an education campaign on the dangers of FMD and other serious transboundary animal diseases. Cooperation leading to simple, practical quarantine and disease surveillance procedures should be encouraged. At the same time a good working relationship should be developed with animal health authorities in neighbouring countries, both at the national and local levels for cooperation on quarantine and exchange of early warning information on disease occurrences near mutual borders.
The swill feeding of food scraps (which may contain imported animal products) to pigs is a major way in which FMD and a number of other serious transboundary animal diseases such as African swine fever, classical swine fever and swine vesicular disease may be introduced into a country. Therefore consideration should be given to banning swill feeding or at least implementing practices that will make it safe, such as requiring the swill to be boiled for at least one hour.
Every effort should be made to prevent swill feeding of food waste from international aircraft or ships, as this constitutes a high risk of introduction of these transboundary diseases. Facilities should be made available for the incineration or safe burial of food scraps, unused food and animal products taken from incoming passengers by quarantine officials (see also the section on Barrier and border quarantine policy on p. 28).
Although bans on swill feeding are goals to be aimed at from the point of view of disease prevention, the impossibility of monitoring the situation at the household level renders this difficult to achieve in many countries. For many pig producers in rural, peri-urban and urban situations, economic circumstances dictate that any affordable available food source be used. This is likely, especially in the urban and peri-urban situation, where many poor people are highly dependent on their pigs for extra income, to emanate from a variety of sources, almost inevitably on a sufficiently informal basis to be beyond the reach of the law. Therefore, the only possible way to obviate the danger is for pig owners to understand the dangers and to opt voluntarily to boil the swill for an appropriate period before feeding it to their pigs. Where poverty prevails, the law is usually no deterrent and only comprehension of a risk and a practical means to overcome it will ensure compliance with regulatory measures. In countries with a developed pig industry, where pig farming is a business, it is possible that the law will guide farmers, and banning swill feeding might offer protection.
The presence of large numbers of uncontrolled or poorly controlled pigs in an area or country constitutes a high risk for the entry and rapid spread of FMD and other serious diseases such as African or classical swine fever. There may be significant delays in recognition of the disease and eradication will be much more difficult. Perhaps the greatest danger is that these pigs have access to the carcasses of pigs that die or are disposed of in the bush or on rubbish dumps, where they may be exposed to contaminated food scraps. Countries should take measures to encourage the development of properly constructed pig pens and farms and to reduce the numbers of scavenging pigs, particularly in areas that are considered to be at high risk of entry of FMD and other diseases. Groups that include pig farmers at all levels should speed up the process of commercialization, encouraging the establishment of pig farmers' organizations. However, it must be accepted that the traditional ways of keeping pigs in many developing countries will not be changed overnight, and that permanent confinement of pigs imposes obligations to provide feed that owners may be unable to meet. The merit of pigs is their ability to convert low-grade feed, including human detritus, into high-quality protein, and until much more research has been done on alternative feeds for pigs, many producers will not find it worthwhile to confine their pigs. Additionally, in a number of countries sanitation is not readily available, and pigs provide a valuable cleansing service. The best that can be hoped for in the short term is that informed pig owners in villages will understand the dangers of disposing of the carcasses, offal and remnants of dead/slaughtered animals on rubbish dumping areas where pigs scavenge. A national policy for upgrading pig production that includes identifying sources of cheap feedstuffs should be put in place.
Countries that have endemic FMD in wildlife or feral animal populations need to consider what can be done to limit the possible close contact between potentially infected wild animals and susceptible livestock, and transfer of the disease to the latter. This may involve limiting livestock farming in some areas of the country, development of immune belts, or even the erection of physical barriers such as double fencing.