Foot-and-mouth disease

Foot and mouth disease is a highly contagious animal disease that affects all cloven-hoofed animals including cattle, sheep, goats, camelids (eg alpacas, llamas and camels), deer and pigs. Cloven-hoofed animals are those with a split toe. It does not affect horses.

The virus is carried by live animals and in meat and dairy products, as well as in soil, bones, untreated hides, vehicles and equipment used with these animals. It can also be carried on people’s clothing and footwear.

The FMD virus can survive in frozen, chilled and freeze-dried foods including meat and dairy products.

Infected countries are isolated from the global livestock trade. An incursion of FMD into Australia would lead to a loss in production of meat and milk, cessation of trade, and necessary slaughter of many animals.

Foot-and-mouth disease is a nationally notifiable disease. This means an animal showing suspect signs of the disease must be reported to a Local Land Services District Veterinarian on 1300 795 299 or the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888.

Animals at risk of foot-and-mouth disease

FMD affects can affect all cloven-hooved animals include cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, pigs, der, alpacas, llamas, and camels.

Clinical signs of foot-and-mouth disease

Signs of FMD may include:

  • blisters on the mouth, snout, tongue, lips, teats, or feet
  • erosions remaining after blisters rupture
  • drooling
  • fever
  • limping and reluctance to move
  • production losses.

What does foot-and-mouth disease look like?

Following are a collection of images with the symptoms of foot and mouth disease to aid in recognising FMD in a range of livestock.

More are available at the Animal Health Australia website.

Foot-and-mouth disease mouth blisters

Foot-and-mouth disease in cattle - mouth lesions (Image: Mark Stevenson)

Foot-and-mouth-disease blisters on a pig

Foot-and-mouth disease in pigs - blisters (Image: FAO-EUFMD)

Foot-and-mouth-disease blisters on a pig

Foot-and-mouth disease in pigs - hoof lesions (Image: FAO-EUFMD)

Foot-and-mouth-disease blisters on a sheep

Foot-and-mouth disease in sheep - mouth lesions (Image: FAO-EUFMD)

Foot-and-mouth disease in cattle - tongue blisters

Foot-and-mouth disease in cattle - tongue blisters (Image: Mark Stevenson)

Foot-and-mouth disease in sheep - hoof blisters

Foot-and-mouth disease in sheep - hoof blisters (Image: FAO-EUFMD)

Foot-and-mouth disease in cattle - hoof blisters

Foot-and-mouth disease in cattle - hoof blisters (Image: Mark Stevenson)

How is foot and mouth disease spread?

The FMD virus is carried by live cloven-hoofed animals, as well as in soil, bones, untreated hides, vehicles and equipment used with these animals. The FMD virus can survive in frozen, chilled and freeze-dried foods including packaged meat and dairy products.

Foot and mouth disease can be spread through close contact between animals and can be carried on animal products, equipment, people’s clothing or by the wind.

FMD is capable of extremely rapid spread. Entire herds are known to have be infected within 48​ hours. Cattle are most susceptible to loss, however the disease spreads fastest in pigs.

Can you treat foot and mouth disease in cattle?

There is no specific treatment for FMD. The conventional method of treating infected animals overseas involves the use of antibiotics and mild disinfectants. Because there are a large number of FMD virus strains, maintaining effective levels of vaccination and herd immunity is challenging. Vaccines need to match with the regional strain causing FMD. The protection period is generally short-lived, often 12 months or less.

Australia has access to an FMD vaccine bank for use in the event of an outbreak. Australia is currently recognised as ‘free from FMD, without vaccination’, allowing international trade to continue. This status would be lost if pre-emptive vaccination were implemented.

Mid-north Coast Emergency Animal Disease information session by district vet Ian Poe.

Read more about foot and mouth disease (NSW DPI).

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