The existence of foot and mouth disease in Northern Ireland poses a very great risk to the farming industry here. The effects of spread of the disease within the island of Ireland could be devastating and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has issued the following advice to hauliers in an attempt to prevent disease spread.

Vehicles travelling to Northern Ireland from Great Britain

The known weight of infection in Great Britain is much heavier than that here. Hauliers entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain by sea must take great care that they do not act as inadvertent transporters of the disease. Drivers of vehicles which may have had contact with agricultural animals or premises whilst in Great Britain should report to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development's Imports Inspectors on arrival at Northern Ireland ports. Vehicles, such as those which may have been in contact with susceptible animals, will have to be sprayed with a harmless disinfectant to ensure that any infection which they may be carrying is killed. Drivers and helpers may be requested to have their footwear and clothing disinfected.

If possible, any such vehicles should avoid contact with farm livestock and premises for one week after their return to Northern Ireland. If this is not possible, then before entering any agricultural premises they should again be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

Method of vehicle cleansing and disinfection

When using disinfectant, appropriate health and safety precautions must be taken. The manufacturer's safety data sheet should be consulted. A COSHH assessment must be carried out and all health and safety requirements complied with. The following information is for general guidance only.

The disinfectant used must be approved for foot and mouth disease control by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. A list of such disinfectants may be obtained from Divisional Veterinary Offices or on the DARD website by clicking here

To protect the skin from disinfectant, operators should wear the following waterproof protective clothing: boots, overalls (or coat and leggings), headgear and gloves. Waterproof clothing means clothing made of rubber, plastic or similar impervious material which can be washed down and disinfected.

The whole vehicle must be thoroughly cleaned and free from mud, dung and any other dirt. Disinfectants are only effective in clean conditions. Not only does dirt act as a barrier between the disinfectant and the surface to be disinfected. It also interacts chemically with the disinfectant to render it less effective. Particular attention should be paid to the hidden underside of the vehicle, including the wheel arches where dirt tends to cling and cake, and to the tyre tread. The dirt should first be soaked with disinfectant. This should be done using a low-pressure applicator such as a knapsack sprayer. To remove the dirt, a power hose will be required in most cases but the creation of an aerosol may necessitate the use of eye and respiratory protection. All washings should be mixed with disinfectant before being allowed to enter drains. Contamination of watercourses with disinfectant must be avoided.

Approved disinfectant should then be applied to all external surfaces of the vehicle, taking special care with the underside and wheel arches, and the interior of any vehicle which has carried livestock or agricultural produce. This should be done using a low-pressure applicator such as a knapsack sprayer. The use of a high-pressure hose is more hazardous as the disinfectant solution in aerosol form is more likely to be inhaled necessitating the use of a high-specification mask.

When cleansing and disinfection of the vehicle has been completed, all protective clothing and equipment should be hosed down. The operator should wash all areas of exposed skin.

Consideration for our agricultural industry

The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is aware that the precautions outlined above will mean considerable inconvenience to those involved in the haulage industry but would stress that transmission of this most contagious and economically significant disease must be avoided at all costs.

just-food.com published a feature on foot and mouth. To read it, click here.