State Vet Alerts Travelers to Japan and Korea about Outbreak of Serious Animal Disease

Posted on May 28, 2010 in 2010 News Releases, News-Releases

NR10-05 – May 28, 2010

Foot and Mouth Disease virus may be transported by Humans


HONOLULU – The state veterinarian is alerting Hawai`i residents traveling to Korea and Japan to be careful not to bring back the notorious Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD), a highly contagious viral disease of cattle, swine, sheep and other cloven-hoofed animals.  Although humans are not susceptible to the disease, unsuspecting travelers may transport the virus to non-infected regions.  For Japan, the outbreak is currently limited to Miyazaki Prefecture, Southern Island of Kyushu. To date, FMD has not been detected in the U.S.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today imposed temporary import restrictions on beef products from Japan.  To view the USDA news release, go to:

“We are advising recent travelers to and from South Korea and Japan that have visited farms there to stay away from Hawai`i farms, ranches and zoos,” said James Foppoli, state veterinarian with the Hawai`i Department of Agriculture.  “Travelers going abroad, especially to countries in Asia, should avoid contact with animals, or areas where animals have been held, for at least five days before returning to Hawai`i and should avoid contact with animals for at least five days after returning to Hawai`i.”

Currently, agriculture officials in S. Korea and Japan’s Miyazaki Prefecture are scrambling to contain the disease, which can be spread from animal to animal, by animal products including meat products, by the wind, on the wheels of vehicles and on human clothing.  The virus may also stay active in the nasal passages of humans up to 28 hours.  As of May 28, 2010, about 150,000 cattle and swine in affected regions in Japan have been euthanized to stop the spread of this virus.

Controlling the movement of food, people and their activities related to contact with livestock is important with respect to FMD.  Increasing emphasis is being placed on disease surveillance at all international ports, including Hawai`i. Due to the worldwide popularity of agro-tourism, which has become an important diversification for many livestock operations, there is an increased risk for entry of foreign diseases via human carriers. International movement of livestock into Hawaii directly is prohibited by Federal law.


Precautions that travelers can take include:

  • Do not visit farms and ranches in the affected counties while traveling until this outbreak is over.
  • Laundering or dry clean all clothing, jackets or coats before returning to the U.S.
  • If you have visited a farm abroad, or if you’ve traveled and live, work or plan to visit a farm in Hawai`i, shower, shampoo, and change into clean clothing.  Wash or dry clean clothes–don’t risk taking the FMD virus home on contaminated clothing.
  • Remove all dirt or organic material from shoes, luggage, personal items, etc.  Wipe the items with disinfectant.
  • Don’t bring prohibited products home. And declare all food and agricultural material on the U.S. Customs declaration form and the Plant and Animal Declaration Forms, which are distributed prior to landing.
  • Avoid contact with livestock or wildlife for at least five days prior to and five days after returning home.


Because the FMD virus may be carried on other animals, HDOA’s Airport Animal Quarantine Holding Facility may bathe certain dogs and cats arriving from the S. Korea and Japan.

“This disease is particularly feared because it is easily transmitted and potentially economically devastating to livestock industries” said Foppoli.  “Although our isolated location protects us somewhat from exposure from infected livestock, the risk of human movement of foot and mouth virus is not negligible.

“We are posting information on the Japan and Korea outbreaks on the Department’s website to keep local livestock ranchers informed and updated.  Web information also includes biosecurity measures for ranches and farms and how to spot symptoms of the disease,” Foppoli added.  “With this particular disease, early detection and eradication is crucial mitigate adverse impacts to industry.”

FMD is characterized by fever and blister-like sores on the tongue and lips, in the mouth, on the teats and between the hooves.  The disease can be confused with several other animal illnesses.  Whenever blisters or other typical signs are observed, laboratory tests must be completed to confirm the disease.  Most animals recover from FMD, but it may cause extreme weakness and severe losses in the production of meat and milk.

Once infected, animals become “virus factories,” capable of spreading high numbers of viral particles to other animals and into the environment.  Infected swine, in particular, can release millions of viral particles when they exhale.  The virus can become airborne and can be breathed in by nearby susceptible animals.   Once infection is introduced, it is very difficult to prevent the spread.  The only continents currently free of the disease are North America, Australia and Antarctica.

The FMD virus also can be carried in the raw meat, animal products or milk from FMD-exposed or infected animals. The FMD outbreaks in South Africa was started after waste food containing raw meat scraps was collected from international ships and fed to swine.

More information and updates on FMD can be found on the HDOA website at:

The U.S. State Department fact sheet for travelers: