We most often hear about the economic impacts of foot and mouth disease (FMD) when outbreaks occur in countries classified as free of the disease. However, FMD remains endemic in over 100 countries worldwide, including much of South America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

A recent study from researchers at the Pirbright Institute and the Royal Veterinary College in the United Kingdom, published in the journal Preventative Veterinary Medicine, estimates the global costs associated with the disease. The researchers looked at direct losses due to reduced production and changes in herd structure and indirect losses caused by costs of FMD control, poor access to markets and limited use of improved production technologies.

Global cost of FMDThe researchers estimate the annual cost of FMD in terms of visible production losses and vaccination in endemic regions alone amount to between $6.5 and $21 billion. Outbreaks in FMD-free countries and zones cause additional losses estimated at greater than $1.5 billion per year.

The authors note that FMD losses are especially severe in some of the world’s poorest countries where large percentages of people are directly dependent on livestock. In countries with ongoing FMD-control programs, costs tend to be ongoing and long-term. Outbreaks in FMD-free countries have enormous economic impacts, including loss of access to lucrative export markets.

The ease with which FMD can spread means control requires coordination within and between countries, the researchers conclude, adding that the value of FMD prevention justifies public investment. They also note that equipping poor countries with the tools needed to control FMD will involve long-term development of state veterinary services that will deliver wider benefits including the control of other livestock diseases.