Airports Step Up Foot-and-Mouth Precautions

They are scraping manure off shoes in American airports these days.

U.S. Department of Agriculture officers armed with buckets of bleach and water are instructed to scrape the shoes of travelers who have been to a farm or the countryside in Britain or continental Europe.

In other instances, passengers have also been asked to step into buckets of bleach. The efforts are part the agency's methods to guard against foot-and-mouth disease spreading into the country.

"An average of 250,000 travelers enter the United States from around the world," according to Dr. Craig Reed of the USDA. "Any one of these travelers could bring in an invasive pest or disease into this country which could devastate our agricultural economy."

International passengers are required to identify any farm contact to Customs and USDA officials. All baggage is also subject to inspection and violations could result in penalties of up to $1,000, according to USDA officials.

Farmers across the country are happy about the efforts and are stepping up their own push to make sure the disease is caught quickly if it is identified on American shores.

Farmers on High Alert

Across the country farmers are on high alert and inspecting their livestock for signs each day.

"Each morning I go through the plant and I do a sanitation check," said Mississippi farmer William Blissett. "They can't start to work until I OK it that everything is clean."

A team of American agricultural experts have been sent to the European Union to monitor, evaluate and assist in containment efforts there. In Britain, plans are being carried out to destroy up to 100,000 animals that may have come in contact with the infection ā€” in addition to more than 200,000 sheep, cows and pigs already killed or marked for death.

On Feb. 21, the USDA began its efforts ensure the disease didn't affect the United States, but since reports of the disease have sprung up in France and Argentina, its efforts now include meat sniffing dogs and agents armed with brushes and bleach at airports.

Meat Sniffing Dogs

At Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C., travelers are inspected by Quincy, a member of the beagle brigade, the USDA's first line of defense against the spread of foot-and-mouth disease. Quincy inspects luggage arriving from countries infected with the disease and picks out pieces that might contain meat, fruit or other items that might host the disease.

Officials said Quincy finds about 12 to 14 items that are banned every day.

ABCNEWS' Bettina Gregory, ABC affiliate WAPT Reporter Desare Frazier and's Rose Palazzolo contributed to this report.