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Published: Monday, 4/9/2001

Ohio zoos set up foot-and-mouth defense

BLADE STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS

COLUMBUS - Several Ohio zoos are setting up restrictions to protect their animals from the threat of foot-and-mouth disease.

The Columbus Zoo has posted signs asking visitors to stay out if they've returned from a trip outside North America in the past five days, said Michael T. Barrie, director of animal health.

At the Wilds in Muskingum County, a wild-animal conservation and research center, travelers who have been on the continent fewer than six days will be asked to go home.

The virus, which has not been found in the United States since 1929, is harmless to humans. But among split or cloven-hoofed animals, it can cause sores that are painful to the animals when they try to stand or eat.

Easily transmitted by dirt on clothes, shoes, and vehicles, it has ravaged Britain's livestock and moved farther into Europe.

It is possible for humans to carry the virus in their throat and nasal passages, unknowingly spreading it from one animal to another.

If foot-and-mouth enters the country, all shipments of animals and behind-the-scenes tours at The Wilds will be canceled.

If the disease were to make it to Ohio, Mr. Atkinson said the entire facility would be quarantined.

Although no restrictions are currently in place, the Toledo Zoo might post signs after opening its children's petting zoo in late May, zoo spokeswoman Andi Norman said. That is the only place where visitors have direct contact with animals.

But she said the zoo does not have any extra signs regarding foot-and-mouth nor is it asking visitors if they recently were abroad. She said not as many international travelers visit the Toledo Zoo as zoos in larger cities on the East and West Coasts.

Giraffes, kudu, and impala are among the animals at the Toledo Zoo that are susceptible to foot-and-mouth disease. Zoo visitors do not come in contact with any of those animals.

The Cleveland Zoo is developing rules similar to those at its Columbus counterpart, said Dr. Albert Lewandowski, chief veterinarian.

All three zoos have increased the number of disinfectant foot baths for employees who go from one animal area to another.

The Ohio State Fairgrounds will continue to disinfect its barns between animal shows but doesn't plan to add foot baths for workers traveling among the animals, said Lee McPhail, the state veterinarian. All animals from outside Ohio will need a veterinarian to certify they are healthy.



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