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2001 World Pork Expo Cancelled to Reduce Risk of Introducing Foot-and-Mouth Disease

Livestock Update, May 2001

Allen Harper, Extension Animal Scientist-Swine, Virginia Tech Tidewater AREC

In an effort to minimize the risk of introducing Foot-and-Mouth disease to the U.S., the National Pork Producers Council has canceled the 14th annual World Pork Expo. The event, which was scheduled for June 7, 8 and 9 in Des Moines, Iowa, is considered to be one of the largest pork production educational and promotional events in the world. Total attendance typically approaches 40,000 visitors including about 2,000 international visitors from as many as 60 countries.

In explaining the World Pork Expo cancellation, NPPC president Barb Determan made the following public statement: "We have seen tremendous devastation in countries around the world from Foot-and-Mouth Disease outbreaks. The U.S. has been free of Foot-and-Mouth Disease since 1929, and we don't want to take the risk of a possible outbreak potentially spread through hosting the World Pork Expo, an event attended by pork producers and pork industry leaders from around the world."

Foot-and-Mouth Disease is an acute, infectious viral disease that causes fever and development of vesicles (blisters) mainly on the feet and mouth of infected stock. Cattle, sheep, goats, and swine as well as wild cloven-hoof species such as deer and elk are susceptible. Death losses from the disease are not especially high in older growing or adult stock, but animal productivity can be substantially impaired. Death losses can be quite high in young animals.

What makes Foot-and-Mouth Disease so risky is the highly contagious nature of the disease. In the current devastating outbreak in Great Britain, air born transfer, farm-to-farm truck and human traffic, fence-line animal contact, and transfer by wildlife have all been implicated in the rapid transfer of the disease throughout that country. In an effort to control the disease, programs by the British government are being implemented which involve euthanasia and disposal of all cattle, sheep and hogs on infected farms as well as on farms within a specified radius of the infected farms. Since the initial British outbreak in February of this year, there have been 1366 confirmed cases in Britain including 3 in Northern Ireland, 21 cases in the Netherlands, 1 case in Ireland, and 2 cases in France.

Because it is such a large and well-attended event, it was undoubtedly a difficult decision by the leaders of NPPC to cancel the 2001 World Pork Expo. However, the decision is a prudent one considering the potential devastation to the U.S. livestock industries if Foot-and-Mouth Disease were to be introduced here. All producers and livestock industry people are encouraged to pay special attention to herd biosecurity and protection during this time of increased risk.

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