Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) in Cattle: Causes and Symptoms

Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) in Cattle

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. Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) is not recognised as a zoonotic disease.

The disease spreads very quickly if not controlled and because of this is a reportable disease.

Meanwhile, Foot and mouth disease (FMD) otherwise referred to as FMD Disease is a severe, highly infectious viral disease of not only to cattle but also to other animals like swine (pigs), sheep, goats, and other ruminant species; the virus is not a threat to human health.

Symptoms of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) in Cattle

The symproms of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) include:

  • Fever
  • Bilsters in the mouth and on feet
  • Drop in milk production
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Quivering lips and frothing of mouth
  • Cows may develop blisters on teats
  • Lameness

Signs of Foot and Mouth in Sheep

  • sudden, severe lameness
  • lies down frequently and is very unwilling to rise
  • when made to rise stands in a half-crouching position, with hind legs brought well forward, reluctant to move
  • blisters may be found on the hoof where the horn joins the skin which may extend all round the coronet and in the cleft of the foot. When they burst the horn is separated from the tissues underneath, and hair round the hoof may appear damp
  • blisters may be found on the dental pad and sometimes the tongue

Signs of Foot and Mouth in Pigs

  • sudden lameness
  • prefers to lie down
  • when made to move squeals loudly and hobbles painfully
  • blisters form on the upper edge of the hoof, where the skin and horn meet, and on the heels and in the cleft
  • may extend right round the top of the hoof with the result that the horn becomes separated
  • blisters may develop on the snout or on the tongue

FMD is characterized by large blisters in the mouth, on the teats, and between the toes that burst to cause painful raw sores and even the loss of the hooves. Animals cannot eat, drink, or walk, nor can they be milked.

Although FMD is rarely fatal, but the recovered animal usually loses its productivity of milk or meat.

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Causes of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD)

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 twenty-four hours and ten days, or even longer. The average time, under natural conditions, is three to six 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.

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 carcase.

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.

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Treatment of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD)

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.
Prevention

Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD)

Foot and Mouth Disease (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.

Foot and Mouth Disease (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.

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. 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.
Vaccination

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.

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Preventing the introduction and spread of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD)

Good biosecurity should be practised at all times, not just during an outbreak. Taking the right measures in the early stages of an outbreak e.g. before we know disease is in the country, can help prevent or reduce its spread.

A Summary of Advice:

  • keep everything clean – materials like mud or bedding on clothes, boots equipment or vehicles can carry the virus from farm to farm or between different groups of livestock on the farm
  • don’t wear work clothes to sales or shows. Wear clean protective clothing and footwear for use solely on your own farm
  • it is essential that you clean yourself, your vehicle and everything you carry thoroughly when you move between different groups of livestock on the farm
  • avoid visiting other farms unless absolutely necessary
  • do inspect animals regularly (at least daily) for signs of disease
  • keep different species of livestock separate where possible
  • avoid moving animals from one part of the farm to another if possible, particularly between out farms and conacre
  • when handling your animals, be aware that sheep do not always show obvious signs of the disease and you could inadvertently infect other animals
  • wash hands after contact with livestock
  • make sure you have approved disinfectant and cleaning material ready at your farm entrance, so that essential visitors can disinfect themselves before entering the premises and as they leave
  • prevent any non-essential visits to your farm

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