'Foot and Mouth' Doesn't Halt Europe Troop Training
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 23, 2001 U.S. troops in Europe continue to train and perform their readiness missions after making adjustments in view of host-nation concerns about cattle-borne foot and mouth disease.
For example, U.S. forces in Germany have responded to a March 18 message from that nation's Ministry of Defense that put a moratorium on its armed forces' training due to foot and mouth disease concerns, said U.S. European Command public affairs spokesperson Army Lt. Col. Henry Huntley.
"We're in compliance with that moratorium, with some exceptions," Huntley said. "We are keeping training limited to American installations, including (U.S.) Army training facilities at Hohenfels and Grafenwoehr."
Foot and mouth disease -- "hoof and mouth disease" in the United States -- is caused by a virus that spreads quickly among cloven-hoofed livestock such as cattle, swine, sheep, goats and wild animals like deer, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. While animals survive the disease, the virus debilitates them, causing losses in meat and milk production.
The USDA says the virus -- characterized by fever and blisters on animals' tongues, lips or feet -- is remarkably hardy and can survive in infected carcasses, animal byproducts, water, straw and pastureland.
Humans cannot contract foot and mouth, but people can spread the disease by carrying the virus on their clothes, including contaminated footwear, the USDA says.
Confirmed foot and mouth outbreaks have occurred near two U.S. bases in Britain, according to a Feb. 26 U.S. Army, Europe news release. The U.S. European Command's Customs Executive Agency has warned American service members, their families and others who travel to and from Europe that foot and mouth disease can be spread through food, or dirt on shoes, according to the USAEUR release.
Huntley said all U.S. forces stationed throughout Europe are now avoiding open areas with livestock.
"All of the different types of forces we have (throughout Europe) are under the same considerations," he said. "We want to make sure we're not in places where we'd be in a position to transfer foot and mouth."
Hoof and mouth disease last appeared in the United States in 1929, according to the USDA.
While U.S. military officials at home and abroad are sensitive to concerns about foot and mouth disease, Huntley said, U.S. troops in Europe are continuing to perform their training and readiness missions.
"We're able to respond to anything that we need to respond to," he said.