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.
For more details, click on the OIE technical card on FMD.
Union control measures are laid down in Council Directive 2003/85/EC of 29 September 2003 repealing the former Directive 85/511/EEC. The Directive provides for measures to control and eradicate the disease with the aim to regain the disease and infection free status of the affected territory. The control measures are based on stamping-out of infected and in-contact herds, and on regional restrictions on the movement of susceptible animals and their products. Provisions are made for the use of emergency vaccination. To this end the Union maintains one of the world's biggest antigen banks for express formulation of vaccines.
Member States are obliged to have contingency plans in operation and national reference laboratories must collaborate with the EU Reference Laboratory.
The European Commission is an active partner of the European Commission for the Control of Foot-and-Mouth Disease (EuFMD)
Further information can be found on the website of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations.
The 2001 Epidemic
- Main events and list of decisions adopted by the Commission
- ECOSOC's opinion
- The lessons from the crisis: International FMD Conference in Brussels 12-13 December 2001
- The new Directive: see Control measures above + press release.
Information on other FMD outbreaks
Notification and Health Situation
Foot-and-mouth disease is a notifiable disease, according to Council Directive 82/894/EEC of 21 December 1982 on the notification of animal diseases within the Community. Click on ADNS for a description of the notification system and the latest health situation table.