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What Now Mad Cow...
Erika Bolin




Since the worldwide panic and frenzy of the feared and dreaded Mad Cow Disease, we have held our breath and quickly driven past our favorite burger outlets.

Now just as we thought is was safe to return to the all--beef carnage and partake in a big- n- juicy cholesterolfest patty again, we are stopped mid-bite with the news of yet another livestock illness killing humans: Hoof-and-mouth disease.

Not just for cows anymore, this one affects ALL hooved animals - goats, sheep, pigs, etc. The main outbreak reports are from merry old England - again. And the British have been in such a state of affairs trying to control this new and deadly epidemic they actually forbade travel outside of the country for a time. Quite a malaise!

Yes, those there had to stay and those planning vacations had to cancel. I wonder if Travelex Insurance actually covers unforeseen livestock plagues?

The British don't play games when faced with disease. Long known for their terribly strict rabies quarantines- where an innocent, documented animal (cat/dog) is sent to an animal prison of sorts and quarantined for over six months- to avoid the spread of rabies into the country. (Britain is still rabies free, thank you!)

This time they simply shut the country down.

Admirable, if a bit panic influenced. The restrictions have spread across the rural areas of England. No venturing across the moors for a bit of bangers and mash.

Ireland, with only one confirmed case ( in County Louth), assures travelers "the Pint's on them". Still welcoming all visitors with no restrictions.

Presently, the two countries are allowing Americans to pretty much come and go. However, UK and European visitors (and returning patriots) are required to walk over disinfectant mats at both airports (small and large) and the many ports that trim the coasts.

Now France, as well as Belgium, have also confirmed cases. In recent days they've announced the confirmation and have also begun the mat protocol.

France has canceled some horse events, rides etc. at their Disneyland Paris, as there was a confirmed Hoof-and-mouth victim a way-to-close-for-comfort 5 miles away! They have left open the must-see (?) Buffalo Bill Wild Wild West Show. Can't you hear the attendant now: " It is no problem Madame, simply walk over dis special mat and, viola!, no disease. Come, we smoke now."

Scary or what? I am reminded of the movie- fiction- called Outbreak. A very similar scenario...

"People seem to be confusing Mad Cow Disease with Hoof-and-mouth" said an ominously calm British tourist board agent with a stiff upper lip."There are a lot of misconceptions out there and we are afraid [potential] visitors have the wrong idea."

Okay, why doesn't somebody explain it to us. In plain English. The Queen's English if you like. Enough of the rumors and outlandish press reports like the spine chilling tabloid front page recently: "Over 50,000 die at the feet of frothing Bessy."

However, if the officials are being this open (a rarity) about the diseases, you just know it's got to be bad. One thing countries, anywhere, don't want to do is get a stigmata of death attached to their frilly welcoming tourist posters. Think of poor Miami's rap for outlandish and unnecessary violence on tourists. A city of some millions with relatively few violent crimes daily, but the press made Miami look like a free-for-all of gun-toting madmen hell bent on more European (in particular) blood.

Most of the tour companies, hotels etc. are happily refunding would-be-travelers' money. No questions asked. If you're scheduled and fearful, call and ask about it. Ask your agent if there's a policy you're pending travel company has commissioned.

According to British, Irish and French tourist authorities, there really is no need to panic. The mats are in place and apparently do their job, as we and other countries are still Hoof- and- mouth disease free. Avoid the farmstay vacation, the "meet a real pig" exhibits, and, at all cost, throw away your shoes, socks, pants (if you can afford it) and be sure to scrub down with surgical soap each evening before you tuck yourself into your comfy overseas bed, decidedly more than a little weary of even counting sheep!

A scientific explanation on Hoof- and- mouth here->
More Hoof and mouth disease information here->
Irish tourist Bureau here ->
British Tourist Bureau here ->
French Tourist Bureau here ->


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