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Study simulates effects of foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in Mexico
Date:2/16/2012

URBANA In a worst-case scenario simulation of a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in Mexico, researchers found that establishing a good surveillance system and raising a more resilient breed of cattle could lessen the blow to the Mexican cattle industry should an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) or other infectious disease occur.

"For diseases that spread very quickly, such as foot-and-mouth, the best way to minimize economic losses is to have a very good surveillance system," said University of Illinois agricultural economist Lia Nogueira. "You can identify the herds that are sick right away and contain or slaughter them so the disease doesn't continue to spread throughout the country."

Nogueira said that when FMD ravaged the Mexican cattle industry in the 1940s, things were very different. Ranches were more isolated.

"If there was an outbreak in a certain region, it would have been contained to that region," she said. "Today we're seeing a lot more feedlot finishing in Mexico like in the United States. There are more cattle traveling all over the country to finishing centers. Once the cattle start traveling, the disease can begin to spread all over and then you get into real trouble."

Nogueira's study simulated several scenarios that incorporated different levels of surveillance, which involves traceability and checkpoints so every cow's origin and movement can be documented.

"In the scenario in which surveillance was very efficient and infected cows were identified quickly, the losses would not be very great," she said. "A mid-range scenario of traceability would be probably the most feasible for Mexican ranchers. It would involve a 60 to 70 percent depopulation rate, and losses to society as a whole would be $9.6 to $16 billion. Producers sustain obvious losses, but consumers can also be affected through market responses, and tourism can suffer because of traveling restrictions."

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Contact: Debra Levey Larson
dlarson@illinois.edu
217-244-2880
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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