Oklahoma looking out for

Wednesday, March 28th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Oklahoma's location in the middle of the country is helping ease concerns about "foot and mouth" disease landing here. Despite that, the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture is alerting ranchers to look for symptoms of the illness.

KOTV's Emory Bryan says foot and mouth is the animal disease now spreading from Great Britain throughout Europe. It's already on every continent besides North America and Australia. The disease is not dangerous to people, but poses such a great risk to the food supply that governments worldwide are watching for it. Whenever cattle from different herds are mixed, conditions are ideal for the transmission of disease, but cattle don't have to be in such close quarters to transmit "foot and mouth."

It's the devastating disease that has led to mass slaughters in Britain; almost half the herds in England are targeted. The precautions have spread all the way to Oklahoma's Department of Agriculture. State Veterinarian Burke Healey says, "There are reports of it spreading 150-160 miles just in the wind, but it can also be spread by cars on their ties, the wind, it's very easily spread." The state is warning producers to keep watch for the symptoms of foot and mouth, and monitoring travel between Europe and Oklahoma.

Animal products from Britain have been banned since 1996, after the unrelated reports of "mad cow" disease. Oklahoma Agriculture Secretary, Dennis Howard says, "there are tests going on, but the most important thing is that there is a ban on imports from these European countries with the disease, that's the best way is to stop all imports from European countries." "Foot and mouth" is so contagious; Oklahoma is looking at further restrictions to make sure it isn't transmitted here. Healey says, "the other things we're looking at, such as peat moss that can bring it in the soil, issues as other grains and commodities, that could bring it in farm equipment that hasn't been disinfected properly, anything that can move dirt or organic matter into the country could harbor or hide the virus."

The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture has only had to check one shipment from Britain coming in to the state, and it was free of the virus. Since animal products are banned, they believe the greatest risk of transmission comes from people traveling back and forth.