Foot and mouth is a disease that affects cloven hoofed animals, most commonly sheep, cattle and pigs.
Other cloven hoofed animals including goats and deer can also be infected and introduce the disease to farm animals.
As such it is taken very seriously by the livestock and farming industry, and treated as a significant economic threat to the country.
The last outbreak in Great Britain was in 2007.
Risks to humans
Foot and mouth is generally not transferable to humans. It is possible, but extremely rare, even for people who work closely with animals.
Only a few cases of humans getting foot and mouth disease have ever been recorded. The last recorded case in the UK was in 1966. The person had a mild temperature, sore throat and blisters on their hands. There have been no recorded cases of the disease spreading between humans.
Please note: Foot and mouth disease should not be confused with a different condition called 'Hand, Foot and Mouth disease'. This condition does affect humans but not animals and is not related.
How do I spot it?
Cattle with foot and mouth disease may develop sores and blisters:
- on the feet
- in the mouth
- on the tongue
other clinical signs include:
- slobbering and smacking lips
- cows producing less milk
Sheep rarely develop mouth blisters as a result of foot and mouth disease. Blisters on the hoof are more common. In either location the blisters tend to be small and hard to spot.
Other signs include
- Severe lameness, which may develop suddenly and spread quickly through the flock.
- Tendency to lie down more than usual.
- Unwillingness to move when made to stand.
- High numbers of stillbirths, abortions and lambs dying soon after birth.
- Tiredness in young lambs.
- Ewes unwilling to allow lambs to suckle.
Pigs do not usually develop blisters as a result of foot and mouth disease but sometimes blisters do appear on the:
- upper edge of the hoof where the skin and horn meet
Other signs include:
- Sudden lameness which may develop quickly among the herd.
- Loud squealing from pain.
- Tendency to lie down and unwillingness to move.
- Reluctance to feed.
The clinical signs of foot and mouth in pigs can be indistinguishable from Swine Vesicular Disease.
If you suspect Swine Vesicular Disease you must report your suspicions and treat the condition as suspected foot and mouth until laboratory tests prove otherwise.
How is it spread?
Foot and mouth disease is highly infectious. Animals can catch the virus through direct contact with an infected animal. The disease can also pass indirectly through:
- any other item that has been in contact with infected animals
The virus is present in the fluid of the blisters that animals develop. It can also be found in their saliva, urine, dung, milk and exhaled air before signs of the disease appear.
If you suspect foot and mouth disease you must phone APHA immediately on 03000 200 301.
Please note: Failure to do so is an offence.