Foot and mouth disease (FMD) is a viral disease of cloven-hooved animals that causes lesions in the mouth and on the feet, alongside generalised illness. It affects cows, sheep, goats and pigs, and although they recover after a couple of weeks, it causes reductions in milk yield and weight gain. It can also infect wildlife species such as deer and buffalo.
It is considered one of the most economically relevant transboundary animal diseases because of its high transmissibility, impact on production and trade restrictions at local, national and international levels. In countries where the disease is endemic it can impose serious restrictions on the development of that country’s livestock industry. On a macroeconomic level it will limit the ability to export meat products to other countries; it will also cause economic losses at the level of the farm, often in low-resource contexts where those losses will have a significant impact on the farmers’ livelihoods.
Control in these countries centres around vaccination. However, this is often difficult to implement. The vaccination must be effective, matched to the strains of FMD circulating in the livestock population, and delivered at the right time and the right interval. Vaccination of a national herd of animals needs to be coordinated and governed effectively by national veterinary services. It is important that farmers trust their veterinary services – whether provided privately or through the government. Farmers need to feel that control is important for it to be successful.
The economic impact and control incentives for FMD are poorly understood and likely to vary across livestock systems in these settings. The RVC and The Pirbright Institute have co-funded a project, based in Kenya, where FMD outbreaks are regularly reported and vaccination is part of disease control policy. The project will be closely linked to the University of Nairobi and the European Commission for the Control of Foot-and-Mouth Disease based at FAO. This multi-agency approach will bring together Kenyan and British-based expertise to understand the factors that influence the success of disease control policies, including vaccination. It is envisaged that the results will inform recommendations on control policy in Kenya. The framework developed could be used to evaluate the disease impact in other low and middle-income countries where FMD is still endemic.
For further details on this study please see: Understanding drivers, incentives and economic impact of FMD control in Kenya.