Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) is a devastating disease of livestock caused by a Picornavirus. There are seven serotypes of the virus. All species of cloven-hoofed animals are susceptible. The disease is extremely contagious giving new meaning to FMD (Fast Moving Disease). Economic losses as a result of an FMD outbreak are likely to be very high. The disease is endemic to parts of Asia, Africa, the Middle East and South America.


Cattle, domestic buffalo, sheep, goats, all wild ruminants and swine are highly susceptible. The disease presents with high temperature, lack of appetite, shivering, reduced milk production, smacking of the lips, teeth grinding, drooling. Vesicles or blisters appear in the mouth and nose, between the hooves of the feet and at the coronary band that rupture typically after 24 hours. The differential diagnoses to be made are mucosal disease, infectious bovine rhinotracheitis, bluetongue, and bovine mammillitis, papular stomatitis and viral diarrhea.


The principal sources of virus are incubating and clinically affected animals, carriers (particularly convalescent animals and exposed vaccinates of cattle and water buffalo), but meat and animal by-products are the most likely mode of introduction into Florida. Transmission is by direct or indirect contact with breath, saliva, feces and urine. Under particularly favorable conditions, airborne transmission of infectious droplets can occur up to 35 miles over land or 185 miles over sea.


The United States has been free of FMD since 1929. If FMD were ever to be diagnosed again in the USA in order to re-establish freedom, the disease would likely be eliminated by culling all infected animals and surrounding susceptible species. Vaccination can also be used to limit the impact of the disease, when associated with a range of other control measures such as surveillance, quarantine procedures, establishment of control zones, etc.

Regions free of FMD include North and Central America, Europe, Australasia, and Japan. Here, control is based upon prevention of introduction of the virus through rigorous importation regulation and quarantine. Few tools are available for prevention where these regulatory barriers are breached.