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Animal Health and Emergency Services
Foot and Mouth Disease

Photo of a farm couple and a calf.The Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) is a viral disease that affects all cloven-hooved animals (cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, deer etc.). It is not a disease of humans. The hallmark sign of FMD infection is the production of blisters or vessicles. These are typically found in the mouth, on the tongue, on the nose or snout, on the teats and on the feet. Animals drool, run fevers, lose their appetites, stop producing milk and become very lame. As the blisters progress and rupture they may result in the complete sloughing of hooves or the covering of the tongue. It can kill young animals. The incubation period, the time between infection and clinical signs of disease, is 2-14 days. The animal can begin shedding virus before it shows clinical signs. FMD occurs routinely in parts of South America, Asia, eastern Europe and Africa. Recently there has been a major outbreak in England which has spread throughout the United Kingdom and spilled over into France.

Transmission FMD is the most contagious disease of animals. Large amounts of the virus are found in all body secretions and excretions (saliva, urine, milk, manure) and every time an infected animal breathes out it releases large amounts of infectious virus. FMD virus can survive in dry manure for 2 weeks in the summer, in urine for 39 days and out on the ground between 3 (summer) and 28 days (winter). It can be carried in contaminated feed, on the tires of vehicles and on the shoes and clothes of people. It has been documented to spread by being carried with the wind for over 100 miles. The most common route of introduction of FMD into a country has been through feeding contaminated meat product scraps to pigs. This is the suspected route of introduction in the most recent severe outbreak of the disease in the United Kingdom.

Prevention Although the virus can survive outside the body of an animal, it is susceptible to destruction by heat (>133oF), drying and acids or bases. One of the simplest methods for disinfecting objects is to use vinegar (acetic acid) or sodium hydroxide (lye). There are vaccines for FMD but they have two problems; first, there are so many different strains of the FMD virus that you must have exactly the right vaccine to have any effect and second, the vaccine prevents clinical symptoms but not infection. This results in carrier animals that can start another outbreak. The best prevention is strict bio-security, doing everything possible not to let infected animals or contaminated animal products into the US. Here is a short list of guidelines for bio-security:

  1. Anyone that has been on a farm or in contact with animals in an FMD-infected country should thoroughly disinfect their clothes and shoes before returning to the US. They should also avoid contact with any livestock or exotic animals for at least 5 days after their return to the US.
  2. No uncooked meat or non-disinfected animal products should be brought into the US from FMD-infected countries. If you are uncertain about bringing in a certain product, tell the Customs agent or USDA agent at the airport upon your arrival and they will advise you.
  3. Do not allow anyone to send you uncooked meat or non-disinfected animal products from an FMD-infected country.
  4. Never feed any meat or other food scraps that originated in a foreign country to any livestock in this country.

Contacts If you have any questions concerning FMD, or any other animal disease, please contact the Office of the State Veterinarian at 804.786.2483.
For further information on FMD, click on one of the sites below:
AVIS FMD Information
FMD Guidelines for Fairs

FMD Video
(Streaming Format)

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