Foot and Mouth Disease

Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is one of the most devastating livestock viruses. Even though it’s not likely to be deadly, it causes animals to suffer severely and there is no treatment. Because the virus is highly contagious, Canada must be kept free of FMD at all costs.

Cause

FMD is caused by a virus that has seven subtypes. The subtypes are all so different that vaccination for one does not guarantee immunity against another. Type O is the most common strain of FMD.

Clinical Signs

FMD affects animals with cloven hooves, including: cattle, pigs, sheep, goats and many wild animals. The most common sign of FMD is vesicles which appear on the tongue, mouth, lips, feet, snout, muzzle, teats or skin of animals. Vesicles look like blisters. They break quickly, leaving a raw area of skin.

Because the virus causes animals excruciating pain, they do not eat, fail to grow and produce less milk. Death is rare but can happen, particularly in younger animals, because the disease weakens the heart muscle. Other diseases – such as swine vesicular disease, vesicular stomatitis and vesicular exanthema of swine – have similar symptoms, so it is important to have a veterinary lab diagnose FMD.

Prevention and Management

No treatment is available for FMD but the sooner it’s detected, the easier it is to control, or stop a widespread outbreak. Vaccines are available but are only used in outbreaks. Affected animals need to be segregated from the herd quickly and euthanized. Visitors or people returning from foreign countries can carry FMD without knowing it. Biosecurity precautions should be taken to prevent infecting local herds. FMD can also affect meat products from infected animals. It is extremely important to follow customs regulations when returning from foreign countries.

Transfer to Humans (Zoonotic)

FMD infection in humans is extremely rare and insignificant, even if they are exposed to it over time.

Reporting

Call your veterinarian immediately if an animal develops blisters of any kind in the mouth or on the feet, where the skin joins the hoof. Your veterinarian will notify the proper authorities. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is responsible for getting rid of FMD and controlling foreign animal diseases. Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives supports the agency’s efforts in Manitoba. Detailed procedures are in place to eliminate FMD in Canada, if it appears.

For more information, contact the Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives Chief Veterinary Office/ Food Safety Knowledge Centre at 204-945-7663 or email chiefveterinaryoffice@gov.mb.ca.