Foot and mouth disease (FMD) is a highly contagious viral disease with major economic consequences. In Israel, FMD epidemics recur almost every year and mostly affect cattle. The highest number of outbreaks occurs among beef cattle farms, followed by feedlot farms and dairy farms. We performed several cross-sectional serological studies in Israel during 2006-2014, aimed to reveal if the virus is endemic among cattle and to determine the sero-prevalence of antibodies directed against non-structural proteins (NSP) of FMD virus. Additionally we aimed to determine the risk factors for such sero-positivity. A risk based sampling was performed and the presence of anti-NSP antibodies was estimated using the PrioCHECK® ELISA kit. Beef cattle showed the highest sero-prevalence (13.2%, CI95% = 10.8-15.8%). Higher FMD sero-prevalence in beef cattle sampled in 2014 was associated with previous FMD outbreaks in the farm and with age (adult cows versus calves (p < 0.05)). Sero-prevalence in feedlot calves was significantly lower with only one sero-positive calf out of 256 (0.4%, CI95% = 0-2.2%). Sero-prevalence among dairy cattle was 2.7% (CI95% = 2-3.6%) with location of up to 3 km from FMD outbreaks in multiple farms and location of up to 5 km from the nearest border standing out as significant (p < 0.05) risk factors for sero-positivity. The extremely low sero-prevalence of FMD in feedlot cattle and the significant association of infection in beef cattle with previous outbreaks suggest absence of virus circulation between these two populations during the study period, although previous data show that during outbreaks such transmission can occur. Low sero-prevalence in dairy cattle located in areas adjacent to previous FMD outbreaks may be attributed to intense routine vaccination and stringent control measures that were applied during outbreaks such as emergency vaccination and strict quarantine. Early detection of FMD outbreaks among grazing beef herds as well as the implementation of control measures among these farms are therefore the methods of choice to prevent future outbreaks in Israel.
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