Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is a highly contagious, usually non-fatal viral disease of domestic and wild cloven-hoofed animals, but may also affect certain other species. It is widely distributed throughout the world. Animals recovered from the disease may remain carriers of the infectious virus for an extended period of time. FMD is not dangerous to humans, but has a great potential for causing severe economic losses in susceptible animals.
Causative agent: FMD is caused by a non-enveloped Aphtovirus of the family Picornaviridae, existing in seven distinct serotypes of FMD virus, namely, O, A, C, SAT 1, SAT 2, SAT 3 and Asia 1, most of them with many more subtypes. Infection or vaccination with one serotype, or in some cases even a different sub-type of the same serotype, does not confer immunity against another.
Transmission: the virus is spread easily by animated and non-animated vectors, notably the incubating or clinically affected animal or its products, but may also spread airborne over substantial distances.
FMD, characterised by a vesicular condition of the feet, buccal mucosa and, in females, the mammary glands, cannot be differentiated clinically from other vesicular diseases.
Laboratory diagnosis, including isolation of the virus, detection of viral antigen or nucleic acid or of specific humoral antibody, of any suspected FMD case is therefore a matter of urgency.
Vaccination with the use of conventional vaccines protects from disease, but does not prevent infection and consequently a carrier state. The Community adopted therefore in 1990 a policy prohibiting the prophylactic vaccination against FMD.
Prevention: however, in order to further reduce the risk of incursion of the virus from endemic areas, the Community at the same time strengthened the controls at external borders and engaged considerable financial resources to assist third countries in its neighbourhood to control and eradicate the disease.
It is an OIE listed disease, according to the OIE Classification of Diseases of major importance. This means it is a transmissible disease that has the potential for very serious and rapid spread, irrespective of national borders, that is of serious socio-economic or public health consequence and that has major implication for the international trade in animals and animal products.