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  • Writer's pictureNutrochem Bethal

An overview of Foot- and Mouth Disease

Following the latest outbreak of the disease in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa's Department of Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development signed new control measures into place on 30 June to prevent the spread of Foot- and Mouth Disease (FMD) by prohibiting the movement of animals in the KwaZulu-Natal area.

Foot- and Mouth Disease is a highly contagious viral disease of cattle and swine. It also affects sheep, goats, deer, and other cloven-hooved ruminants. The disease spreads very quickly if not controlled, and because of this is a reportable disease.

Animals infected by this highly communicable disease will show symptoms within 3 – 14 days of infection. Normal recovery time is 7 – 14 days as these animals build an immunity against the effects of the disease.

Transmission of Foot- and Mouth Disease

Animals pick up the virus either by direct contact with an infected animal or by contact with foodstuffs that have been contaminated by such an animal, or by eating or coming into contact with some part of an infected carcass. The airborne spread of the disease can take place, and under favourable weather conditions, the disease may be spread considerable distances. The disease is also known to be spread by people, vehicles and other objects that have been contaminated by the virus.

Animals recovered from Foot- and Mouth Disease will remain a carrier thereof for a period of 28 days, albeit at lower levels.

People infected by the disease will be a temporary carrier for up to 48 hours.

The virus can persist in contaminated feces and food for up to a month depending on temperature and pH conditions – should the conditions not be viable for the survival of the virus, it will die in that specific area.


Mortality rates of animals infected with Foot- and Mouth Disease are very low at 5%, but the negative effects on cattle health and production can be immense.

Treatment for Foot- and Mouth Disease

Treatment is not a given primarily, secondary treatment is, however, administered to treat symptoms until such time the animal has fully recovered. However, being a highly infectious disease and the effects, Foot- and Mouth Disease has on production and the health state of the infected animals, infected animals are usually culled.

It should also be noted that there's seven immunologically distinct types of Foot-and-Mouth infections, and each genotype requires a different vaccine effective against the circulating viral field in the strain in the event of an outbreak to ensure adequate protection.

Symptoms of Foot- and Mouth Disease

The following symptoms are present, either fully or in part, in an animal infected with Foot- and Mouth Disease:

  • Quivering lips, frothing of the mouth, and teary eyes are normally one of the first signs of infection.

  • Blisters in and around the mouth, on the surface of the tongue, the palate, and the inside of the cheek.

  • Blister around the hoofs resulting in animals struggling to walk.

  • Fever and lameness

  • Drop in milk production

  • Loss in appetite and weight loss

  • Cows may develop blisters on teats

Prevention and Biosecurity

Biosecurity on animal farms is normally not common practice on farms but however is crucial and worth the attention it deserves. With a few effective steps and methods in place, the farmer can be assured of the reasonably necessary protection against the spread of Foot- and Mouth Disease

  • Footbaths – containing Envirosept SC at 5ml per L water at entrances and exits of premises as wel as at the various camps.

  • Disinfection of vehicles entering the premises – with Envirosept SC at 5ml per L water spraying of wheels, chassis, and other parts of vehicles, especially those small hidden areas where mud and feces get stuck.

  • Checking suppliers of food and haybales as the virus can be carried through food as well.

Make use of a good and effective disinfection product with the following active ingredients: Glutaraldehyde and QAC combination – Envirosept SC

Contact time of Envirosept SC need to be adhered to for the effective application thereof, organic material present of surface may also affect the effectiveness of the applied products. Envirosept SC is tested to a log 5 reduction at a rate of 5ml per 1L of water with a 5-minute contact tie.

In the case of foot baths, make sure that exposure to direct sun is limited as this may also break down the active ingredients in the products.

To protect South Africa's livestock industry, all players in the industry must work together to ensure a healthier herd.

The implementation of quality and health assurance measures and protocols for cattle is the first step.

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