Hoof-and-mouth disease - how bad is it?

Not to downplay the economic havoc faced by the British (and now cntinental) livestock industry by this epidemic, but I’d still feel better if the governmental and public response to the problem were based more on facts than on what appears to be simple panic. I’d like to know some basic facts that haven’t made the news reports so far:

What does this virus do, besides create some ugly lesions? Is it true that only cows, sheep, and goats can get it, or are we humans at risk? Can it be killed by cooking (i.e. is all that meat still safe to eat, not that I’m volunteering)? Is all that wool wasted? Does anyone really know how it’s transmitted, and does closing off the entire British countryside to casual travel have any effect except to spread panic? And why is it foot-and-mouth over there, and hoof-and-mouth here?

The primary issue is that it’s so highly contagious. It can be spread through contaminated food, water, soil, or the air. That pretty much covers everything in the countryside. So if you don’t want all the animals to get it, you’ve got to kill the one who already have it. And you have to stop anyone from moving from places that have it to places that don’t.

The ironic thing is that it’s not even really that dangerous to the animals – of those infected, it only kills “about 5% of young and older animals”. Quite a bit better than wholesale slaughter and burning.

Here’s a Q&A from the Guardian:

This site should answer most of your questions.

It’s probably called hoof and mouth in the States to differentiate it from hand, foot and mouth disease or coxsackievirus.

Oops, almost forgot, here’s another good article from Salon: