Stern foot and mouth disease (FMD) in animals

Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is a severe, highly contagious viral disease of cattle and swine. It also affects sheep, goats, deer, and other cloven-hooved ruminants.

Stern foot and mouth disease (FMD) in animals

FMD is not recognized as a zoonotic disease. The disease spreads very quickly if not controlled and because of this is a reportable is an acute infectious disease caused by a picornavirus there are seven different Serotypes identified which produce similar symptoms that can only be differentiated in laboratories.

Some serotypes have a restricted geographical distribution, e.g. Asia-1, whereas others, notably serotype O, occur in many different regions. There is no cross-protection between serotypes and sometimes protection conferred by vaccines even of the same serotype can be limited.

The foot-and-mouth virus could enter the country on plant matter, in the luggage of travelers returning from abroad or even on the soles of their shoes. It’s not dangerous to humans but is highly dangerous to many farm animals. Once established in the United States it could probably be eradicated, but only after causing great economic damage.

Experts say the virus that carries foot-and-mouth disease is so infectious that it could slip past defenses meant to keep it out of the United States. Last year in Japan, where foot and mouth disease had not been seen since 1908, the virus arrived on straw imported from China.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s greatest fear is that a tourist returning from abroad will introduce foot-and-mouth disease to the United States by bringing home meat, unpasteurized dairy products or other food tainted with the virus.

Another outbreak in South Africa began when a farmer picked up garbage from a tramp steamer anchored offshore and fed it to his pigs. The current British outbreak is thought to have begun in a similar way. Because the disease is so devastating to farmers, countries go to great lengths to keep it out.

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The occurrence of even a single case of foot-and-mouth disease in a previously disease free country results in an immediate ban on an economically valuable export trade, the British Medical Journal noted in an editorial this month.

Foot-and-mouth is probably the most communicable disease in the world, period,’ said Max Coats, deputy director for animal health programs at the Texas Animal Health Commission.

The Current Situation OR Contact:

In case of foot and mouth disease immediate contact with your local veterinary offices or private veterinary doctors because it’s necessary to control it at early stage.

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs reminds Northern Ireland farmers and hauliers to maintain strong biosecurity measures to reduce the risk of exposure to, and spread of disease.

Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is not to be confused with hand-foot-and-mouth disease (HFMD: a human disease) which affects people and causes a rash on the hands and feet and in the mouth.


The disease is caused by a virus of which there are seven ‘types’, each producing the same symptoms, and distinguishable only in the laboratory. Immunity to one type does not protect an animal against other types. The interval between exposure to infection and the appearance of symptoms varies between 24 hours and 10 days, or even longer. The average time, under natural conditions, is 3-6 days.

The virus survives in lymph nodes and bone marrow at neutral pH, but is destroyed in muscle when pH is less than 6.0, i.e., after rigor mortis. The virus can persist in contaminated fodder and the environment for up to one month, depending on the temperature and pH conditions. Airborne spread of the disease can take place and under favorable weather conditions the disease may be spread considerable distances by this route.

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Animals pick up the virus either by direct contact with an infected animal or by contact with foodstuffs or other things which have been contaminated by such an animal, or by eating or coming into contact with some part of an infected carcass.

It can be spread by items as varied as shoes, clothing, farm implements, meat, milk and garbage that are contaminated with the virus; and by air. Outbreaks have been linked with the importation of infected meat and meat products. The disease can also be spread by people, vehicles and other objects that have been contaminated by the virus. Must wash your hands after contact with infected animals.


The virus incubates for from two days to two weeks before an animal begins to show signs of the disease. Some of the symptoms of foot and mouth disease in Cloven-hoofed animals including cattle, sheep and pig are below:

  • Raised temperature
  • Blisters in the mouth and on feet
  • Drop in milk production in cattle
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Quivering lips and frothing of mouth
  • Cows may develop blisters on teats
  • Sudden and Severe Lameness
  • Saliva dripping from mouth
  • Develop severe foot sores


Treatment is not given. Affected animals will recover. However because of the loss of production and the infectious state of the disease, infected animals are usually culled.


FMD is one of the most difficult animal infections to control, because the disease occurs in many parts of the world, there is always a chance of its accidental introduction into an unaffected country. Export restrictions are often imposed on countries with known outbreaks. FMD outbreaks are usually controlled by quarantines and movement restrictions, euthanasia of affected and in-contact animals, and cleansing and disinfection of affected premises, equipment and vehicles.

Avoid visiting other farms unless absolutely necessary, a veterinary officer should inspect animals regularly (at least daily) for signs of disease and keep different species of livestock separate places where possible.
Infected carcasses must be disposed of safely by incineration, rendering, burial or other techniques. Milk from infected cows can be inactivated by heating to 100°C (212°F) for more than 20 minutes.

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Slurry can be heated to 67°C (153°F) for three minutes. Rodents and other vectors may be killed to prevent them from mechanically disseminating the virus. Good biosecurity measures should be practiced on uninfected farms to prevent entry of the virus.


Vaccines are available, but farmers are loath to use them. Like the annual flu shot for humans, they have to be tailored to a particular strain of the virus. And it is impossible to distinguish an inoculated animal from an infected one, because the vaccine produces the same immunological response as the disease. So the mere act of vaccinating a single cow or pig against foot-and-mouth disease can jeopardize a nation’s meat and livestock exports.

Vaccination can be used to reduce the spread of FMD or protect specific animals. Vaccines are also used in endemic regions to protect animals from clinical disease. FMDV vaccines must closely match the serotype and strain of the infecting strain.

Vaccination with one serotype does not protect the animal against other serotypes, and may not protect the animal completely or at all from other strains of the same serotype. Currently, there is no universal FMD vaccine.

Researchers at the USDA’s Plum Island Animal Disease Center in New York State are working on an improved vaccine that would produce an antibody response distinguishable from the disease, but it will not be available in time to stem the current outbreak.

Author: Mazhar Sultan,Muhammad Awais

University of Punjab Lahore, Pakistan, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad.

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