Press Release

Press releases: Minister Martin issues statement to health care workers on Foot and Mouth Disease

Mr Micheál Martin, TD, Minister for Health and Children today (1 March, 2001) made the following Press Statement – “A Circular has been issued by the Chief Medical Officer of my Department to the Directors of Public Health in each Health Board. The Circular letter sets out the Precautionary Measures to be taken by all health service workers. This measure is being taken to complement the actions taken by my colleague the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development”.

The text of the Circular is as follows:

1st March 2001

Circular letter to Health Boards on Precautionary Measures to be taken by all Health Service Workers.

Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD)

FMD is a highly contagious viral disease of all cloven hoofed animals. It is non-lethal in adult animals, although it causes serious production losses. It is characterised by blisters on the tongue and in the mouth, and lameness.

Spread of the FMD

The primary method of transmission is by direct contact, or via respiratory particles or droplets. However, the movement of animals, vehicles, people, equipment, animal products or animal feed can spread the disease.

Public Health Implications

There are no serious human health implications, although humans in contact with infected animals very occasionally get mild respiratory symptoms. Humans do not become infected by eating meat from infected animals.

There is no risk to healthcare workers catching the disease themselves merely by visiting a farm. Close contact with an infected animal is required but even then the risk is very small. There is no evidence of human to human transmission.

Visits to farms in this country.

In the current circumstances, it is desirable that the movement of persons, vehicles and animals on, off and between farms be kept to an absolute minimum. Visits to farms should be undertaken only if absolutely necessary and farmers are advised to minimise for the time being contact with other farms and farm animals.

Delivery of essential healthcare to farms.

Essential healthcare services should continue to be provided to the population. Healthcare workers should adhere to the following general principles, wherever possible: –

  • Advance notice of visits to farms should be given.
  • Vehicle wheels should be disinfected before the start of a journey.
  • Vehicles should stop at the entrance to the farm rather than proceeding to the farm itself.
  • Vehicles should cross straw barriers soaked in disinfectant when entering or leaving farms.
  • Visitors should disinfect footwear when leaving or entering a farm. This can be made easier by wearing suitable footwear e.g., wellington boots. Use of disposable overshoes and mobile disinfectant trays may also be considered.

Further Advice.

Healthcare workers can obtain further advice from the Director of Public Health in their Health Board area. The Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development has set up a helpline to deal with queries on FMD. The phone numbers are : (01) 6072916, 6072862 and 6072700.

My Department, in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, will continue to keep this matter under review.

Circular letter FMD (No 2) on Precautionary Measures to be taken by all Health Service Agencies in relation to the Prevention of Food and Mouth Disease