Written Answers. - Foot and Mouth Disease.

Liam Lawlor

Question:

314 Mr. Lawlor asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in view of the generation gap since the last outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Great Britain, he will reassure the public in relation to any health hazards to human beings through contracting this disease; the likely symptoms from human infection; and if there are any sections of the population that may be relatively more adversely affected than others. [7480/01]

There are minimal risks to human health from the virus that causes foot and mouth disease in animals and this disease cannot be transmitted through the food chain. Foot and mouth disease is an animal health issue and the current controls in place are the responsibility of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development.

Only in extremely rare cases is the disease transmitted to humans and, in such cases, it can only be passed on by close physical contact with an infected animal. Laboratory workers whose work necessitates handling the virus, dairy workers and veterinarians could become infected. The disease presents mild flu-like symptoms and infection is only temporary and mild. People do not become infected by eating meat from infected animals.

The chief medical officer of my Department issued a circular letter on 1 March 2001 to the directors of public health in all the health boards regarding the precautionary measures to be taken by all health service workers.