Foot and Mouth Disease – Advice for Farmers
Fact Sheet 1
How to spot foot
and mouth disease
Defra deals with the essentials of life
– food, air, land, water and people.
Foot and mouth disease (FMD) is a highly contagious viral
disease which affects cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and other
domestic and wild cloven-hoofed animals. The clinical signs
are a fever, followed by the development of blisters, mainly
in the mouth and on the feet. It is very infectious and will
spread rapidly if not quickly controlled.
This leaflet provides information on the disease; how to
spot FMD and how it is spread. Other leaflets in this series
explain what you can do to reduce the risk of disease
spreading (Fact Sheet 2) and what will happen if disease is
confirmed in animals on or near your farm (Fact Sheet 3).
While being one of the most significant infectious animal
diseases, it is important to stress that FMD does not affect
How to check for FMD in your animals
Inspect your stock carefully and regularly
As for all infectious diseases, early detection is essential.
Inspect all stock regularly for signs of the disease. Where
possible this should be done on a daily basis. Look
particularly for blisters or sores on the mouth and feet.
Do not hurry your inspections. Make sure animals are
properly restrained and there is plenty of light.
If you suspect disease in any animal you must report it
immediately. Telephone your local Animal Health
Divisional Office immediately. To find the number of your
local office, call the Defra helpline on: 08459 33557, or
visit our website at www.defra.gov.uk.
What signs should I look for?
Two-day-old ruptured blister on
tongue, lower gum and lower lip
of a steer.
• Reduced milk yield.
• Raised temperature.
• Slobbering and smacking lips.
• Sores and blisters on the feet, in the mouth
or on the tongue.
Blistering on foot of a steer.
• Sudden, severe lameness.
• Tendency to lie down more than usual.
• Reluctance to move when made to stand.
• Blisters on the hoof and mouth. The blisters
can be very small, and hard to spot.
Two-day-old lesion on dental pad of
A higher rate of lamb mortality or abortions.
Fatigue in young lambs.
Ewes unwilling to allow lambs to suckle.
• Sudden lameness – may squeal loudly as it
may be painful.
Infected pig’s hooves.
Tendency to lie down and unwilling to move.
Reluctance to feed.
Blisters on the upper edge of the hoof
where the skin and horn meet, on the
snout or tongue.
How is the disease spread?
The virus is present in the fluid inside the blisters the
animals develop. It can also be found in their saliva,
urine, dung, milk and exhaled air.
The virus may be spread through any of the above
materials before any clinical signs can be seen.
At the height of the disease, the virus is present in the
blood and all parts of the animal’s body.
Animals may catch the virus through direct or indirect
contact with an infected animal.
Good biosecurity can help reduce the risk of disease
spreading to, or from, your farm. Fact Sheet 2 gives more
details on preventing the spread of disease.
What is direct contact?
animals which share a pen or field.
nose to nose touching across a fence.
What is indirect contact?
Indirect contact is where an uninfected animal comes into
contact with infected material from an infected animal.
It is one of the main ways infection spreads. However,
practising strict biosecurity can help reduce the risk of
disease spreading by this route. Indirect infection includes
– Contaminated footwear, clothes or hands of people
who have close contact with infected animals, e.g.
when feeding or examining stock.
– Equipment that becomes contaminated through use
on or near infected animals.
– Any vehicle that enters and leaves premises.
– Contamination from the carcass of an infected animal.
– Contamination from any place where an infected
animal has been; from pastures and loading ramps,
to markets and roads.
– Contamination from other animals such as dogs, cats,
poultry and foxes. These animals can carry infected
material on their feet or coats, but do not become
– Airborne infection; infected animals – especially pigs –
can breathe out a lot of virus. If this is breathed in by
uninfected animals, disease can occur.
This document is also available on the Defra, Welsh
Assembly Government and Scottish Executive websites.
For telephone and email enquiries for information on
any aspect of Defra, Welsh Assembly Government or
Scottish Executive work, the following helplines can
Defra 08459 33 55 77. (local call rate number within
Welsh Assembly Government 02920 825 572
08459 33 55 77
From outside the UK the telephone number is:
There is also a minicom/textphone number for the
deaf and hard of hearing: 0845 300 1998.
The Helpline email address is:
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
17 Smith Square
London SW1P 3JR
Telephone: 020 7238 6000
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