First there was the mad cow crisis, which began in the 1990s and is far from over. Then came worries about a much older disease, foot-in-mouth.
So far this week, a dozen nations including the U.S. have announced measures to combat foot-and-mouth disease.
Both the mad cow and foot-and-mouth outbreaks have been in Europe but with today's global markets, countermeasures and fears have spread from nation to nation.
Mad cow, a brain disease, can be spread to humans in a form that can kill.
That's because it can make dairy cows go dry, kill very young animals, and make livestock lose weight which is the same thing as market value, since sheep, cattle and pigs are sold by the pound.
Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Norway Wednesday banned imports of livestock and meat products from the 15-nation European Union, in reaction to Tuesday's discovery of foot-and-mouth disease among cattle in northwestern France.
A German border officer
stops a truck transporting
meat from France
"Every day, there's another country slapping an mbargo: the U.S., Spain, Belgium," said Guillemette Du Fos, spokesman for the French National Union of Livestock Transportation. "It just gets worse and worse."
In Belgium, 8,000 meat industry workers are now on unemployment because of the foot-and-mouth crisis.
Tuesday, the U.S. and Canada banned imports of livestock, fresh meat and dairy products from the EU. The EU called the bans excessive, since foot-and-mouth disease is still limited to Britain and France.
"It is not proportionate," EU spokeswoman Beate Gminder said Wednesday. "The only outbreak is in Britain and France," adding the affected areas were under extremely high surveillance to try to contain the disease.
French Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany said in an interview published Wednesday that France is "very exposed" to the risk of more foot-and-mouth cases because of the 20,000 British sheep it imported in February that were scattered in 80 farms around the country.
For now, the key method of containing the disease is mass slaughter of animals with suspected infections, a move that will likely result in higher prices for meat. France would consider, as a last resort, vaccinating livestock against the disease, Glavany told the newspaper Le Parisien.
"Vaccination is a measure we don't exclude, in agreement with Brussels, if we can't master the spread of the disease," Glavany was quoted as saying. "But we're not there yet."
Vincent Carlier, a specialist at the Maison Alfort veterinary school outside Paris, where foot-and-mouth tests are analyzed, said in an interview on French television that vaccinations are not foolproof and only work "against certain types of virus."
Even though humans don't get foot-and-mouth disease, they are highly efficient carriers of the virus, which can adhere for long periods to clothing, shoes, and even automobile tires.
Accordingly, travelers across Europe and Asia and from Europe to the U.S. have been subjected to a long list of precautionary measures aimed at killing the virus, including disinfecting vehicles, clothes and shoes, and banning the import of many foods, even as seemingly insignificant as sandwiches in luggage.
In Washington, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman says American tourists are the first line of defense in keeping foot-and-mouth from spreading to the U.S.
"They could be exposed to this, not from a human health standpoint, but it possibly could get on their clothes or their shoes," said Veneman, in an interview with CBS News White House Correspondent Peter Maer.
"Just make sure that your clothes are clean, your shoes are disinfected if you've been in the countryside so that this disease will not come to the United States."
Veneman has ordered a ban on imports of animals and most animal products from Europe. Livestock and dairy imports from Argentina are also banned because the disease has hit there.
Secretary Veneman says foot and mouth disease not seen here since 1929 would be devastating to America's livestock.
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