• NutroChem

An Overview of Foot-and-Mouth Disease

Updated: Apr 23

child feeding cow with milk bottle

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.

Foot-and-mouth disease is prevalent in African Buffalo in the Kruger National Park and surrounding game parks in South Africa – traditionally the disease was spread from Buffaloes to cattle in these areas.

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 Infection

Animals pick up the virus either by direct contact with an infected animal or by contact with foodstuffs which have been contaminated by such an animal, or by eating or coming into contact with some part of an infected carcass. 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 the 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 faeces 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 are very low at 5%, but the negative effects on cattle health and production can be immense.


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 it has on production and the state of health of the infected animals, infected animals are usually culled.

It should be noted also that there are 7 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.


The following symptoms are present, either fully or in part, in an infected animal:

  • Quivering lips and frothing of 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,

  • A drop in milk production,

  • Loss of appetite and weight loss, and

  • Cows may develop blisters on teats.

Best Practice 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 the disease:

  • Footbaths – at entrances and exits of premises as well as at the various camps.

  • Disinfection of vehicles entering the premises – spraying of wheels, chassis and other parts of vehicles, especially those small hidden areas where mud and faeces get stuck.

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

Make use of good and effective disinfection products with the following active ingredients: Glutaraldehyde, QAC, Sodium Hypochlorite, Peracetic Acid and Iodine – it may not always be practically possible to use the latter 3 mentioned products.

Contact time of the various chosen products also needs to be looked at to ensure the effective application thereof, organic material present of the surface may also affect the effectiveness of the applied products.

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

Get in Touch with NutroChem

Contact your NutroChem Hygiene Specialist for more information on the above and additional information on available products.

Contact Us