By Kindra Gordon

Should FMD be identified in North America or the U.S., the Foreign Animal Disease Response and Preparedness Plan outlines a series of phases, with specific action steps within each phase – that will be followed for dealing with the outbreak. These include:

Heightened Alert Phase: Action steps will be implemented if FMD is identified in either Canada or Mexico with the threat of spreading to the United States. This means control areas with quarantined livestock would be near or crossing over the U.S. border.

Phase 1: The period of time from the confirmation of the first FMD case in the United States until reasonable evidence exists to estimate the extent of the outbreak. The transition to Phase 2 should be accomplished as soon as possible, with a goal of less than 4 days (96 hours).

Phase 2: Surveillance and epidemiology collected to provide timely evidence of the extent and magnitude “type” of outbreak. With this information, planning and decision making by Incident/Area Command will occur.

Phase 3: Recovery: Surveillance and epidemiologic evidence collected to determine that the outbreak is under control and a plan is implemented to regain FMD-free status (possibly with vaccination). 

Phase 4: The United States is declared free of FMD (possibly with vaccination). The USDA continues to work to convince trading partners to accept U.S. exports of animals and animal products.

Steps if outbreak occurs  

Within each of these phases, there are specific steps that would be taken. Some of these actions include:

• The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and its member countries would be notified. 

• All exports of cattle, swine, sheep, goats and their uncooked products would be stopped.

• Advise all livestock operations (including auction markets, exhibitions, etc.) in the United States to implement FMD-specific biosecurity plans and continue until freedom from FMD is re-established. 

• Establish “control areas” around infected premises and contact premises. 

• Activate and deploy appropriate Incident Management Teams. 

• Implement controlled stop movement of susceptible animals in the Control Area and restrict other movements in the Control Area (vehicles, etc.) as appropriate and as permitted by specific FMD response and business continuity plans. 

• Implement an enhanced national FMD surveillance plan for the Control Area(s) and Free Area. 

• Enforce biosecurity protocols within the Control Area.  

• Initiate stamping-out of infected and contact herds (unless the number, or the size, of herds precludes stamping-out quickly enough to stop disease spread). 

• Identify the strain(s) of FMDV and consult with Canada and Mexico to decide whether to activate the NAFMDVB. 

• Activate Joint Information Center and coordinate with public hotlines and media resources. 

• Activate state livestock emergency response teams or notify to be on “standby.” 

• Allow movement of milk from premises with no evidence of infection with FMD to processing according to state, regional, and national Secure Milk Supply (SMS) Plans. 

• Allow movement of products from non-susceptible animals (including eggs and egg products) from the Control Area (from premises with no infected susceptible species) into commerce with adequate truck and driver biosecurity for the duration of the outbreak. 

Vaccine needs

Iowa State professor Jim Roth notes that having these pre-defined phases and potential types of FMD outbreak scenarios will facilitate rapid decision making for development of adaptable emergency response and business continuity plans for the U.S. livestock industry. However, even with these plans in place, Roth anticipates that management of an FMD infection will present unprecedented challenges. He explains that while vaccine exists to help prevent FMD spread to other herds, to be effective the FMD vaccine must match the outbreak strain of the virus. Presently, there are 24 different vaccines to cover all FMD strains.

Thus, it will be essential to isolate the virus and identify the serotype in order to select the correct vaccine to manufacture and use for prevention. This means 24 different vaccines must be stockpiled in order to be available for rapid use during an FMD outbreak. 

Roth explains that the North American FMD Vaccine Bank (NAFMDVB), currently stores vaccine antigen concentrate (VAC) for some, but not all serotypes. Vaccine manufacturers can produce 2.5 million doses in 4 to 14 days upon receiving VAC from NAFMDVB, but additional vaccine production can take as long as 14 weeks. And, in the event of a North American outbreak, the vaccine in the NAFMDVB must be shared among the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

To that end, Roth and other colleagues are advocating that more financial support is needed in anticipation of an FMD outbreak and assuring surge capacity for FMD vaccine production. Specifically, proponents want funding for $150 million for the vaccine bank, $30 million for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network and $70 million, in block grants, for state animal health agencies to enhance their ability to respond to a foreign animal disease emergency.

For more about the need for FMD vaccine, a white paper is available for download at