Agricultural History Series
 Missouri State University

Foot and Mouth Disease

History of the Disease

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  • Foot and Mouth Disease has been around for many centuries. The first account we have of this dreaded disease was in Italy in 1514. 

  • In 1883, British losses were estimated at $5,000,000. In 1890, 431,000 cattle, 230,868 sheep and goats, and 153,808 swine were infected in Germany. 

  • The United States has experienced nine outbreaks of Foot and Mouth Disease - the first in 1870 and the last in 1929. In all instances but two, the disease was eradicated within a few months. 

  • In 1912, it was thought this disease would not occur significantly in the U.S. since it had been eradicated in previous years. In October 1914, the largest U.S. outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease spread rapidly after gaining entry into the Chicago stockyards and other markets. Over 3,500 livestock herds in 22 different states and the District of Columbia were infected before the outbreak ended in September 1915. It cost the government 4.5 million dollars to eradicate the disease.

  • The outbreak of 1914 also affected the cattle exhibited at the National Dairy show held in Chicago October 22-31.  Before its opening the local inspector of the Bureau of Animal Industry warned the manager of the dangers of exposure to the disease, but the show continued with over 700 of the finest registered stock in the world attending.  On November 1 one of the cows developed the disease, and all 700 were quarantined in a brick enclosure for the duration of the infection. For 7 months no animals were allowed in or out and any person leaving was thoroughly disinfected before they were allowed to leave.

  • The other major outbreak occurred in 1924. Twenty months of effort were required before it was considered safe to remove all restrictions from all the involved areas.

  • The 1924 and 1929 outbreaks in California involved hogs that were fed raw garbage containing meat from countries with Foot and Mouth Disease.

  • There were no further outbreaks in the twentieth century.

References -  

  • 1912 Diseases of Cattle p395-397

  • 1916 Diseases of Cattle p384-385

  • 1915 USDA Yearbook of Agriculture, Animal Diseases. p 27

  • 1956 USDA Yearbook of Agriculture, Animal Diseases. p 186-194


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