Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD)

By | June 8, 2022

Foot-and-mouth disease is a notifiable viral disease that primarily affects even-toed ungulates.

What is foot and mouth disease?

Foot -and-mouth disease primarily affects pigs and cattle. Theoretically, however, most other even-toed ungulates are also possible carriers of the viral disease. The highly contagious disease also affects goats, sheep, red and fallow deer. For child – congenital hemidysplasia with ichthyosiform erythroderma and limb defects, please visit

Other possible carriers are elephants, hedgehogs, mice, rats and also humans. Skin and mucous membrane lesions are symptomatic of foot-and-mouth disease. The incubation period is 2 to 18 days depending on the species. Although humans can also be infected by foot-and-mouth disease, the disease is considered an animal disease.


Foot and mouth disease is a viral disease and occurs when the foot and mouth disease virus infects the host. The foot-and-mouth disease virus is a picornavirus and is therefore one of the smallest viruses.

The pathogen is transmitted by smear or contact infection. Droplet infection is also conceivable. If a living being is infected, small blisters filled with liquid appear, especially in the mouth or mouth area. These blisters, which are also known as aphthae, contain the pathogen, which spreads further from there.

Routes of infection can be animal products, clothing or work equipment. The pathogen can also spread through the air. In the majority of cases, the pathogen is absorbed through the mouth, ie an oral infection occurs.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

The name foot-and-mouth disease already indicates where the typical signs of the disease appear on the body. Initially, however, classic flu symptoms appear with the disease. Fever, headache, sore throat and body aches, poor performance and loss of appetite are possible. A few days after these symptoms appear, the characteristic pustules develop in the mouth.

These red spots are most common on the tongue, gums, and oral mucosa or near the lips. They develop relatively quickly into small blisters or sores that are painful to the touch and fill with pus or tissue fluid as the disease progresses. A rash also develops on the hands and feet. This also consists of red spots of different sizes, shapes and numbers.

The rash is not itchy at first, but itches and hurts as it progresses. Blisters that secrete a secretion form on the reddened areas. The palms of the hands and the soles of the feet are usually affected. The red pustules can also appear in the buttocks, in the genital area and in the knee and elbow area. If the patient maintains thorough hygiene, the symptoms will subside on their own after a few days.

Diagnosis & History

Foot -and-mouth disease produces only mild symptoms in an infected human, insufficient to make an accurate diagnosis. In order to diagnose the disease, it is therefore necessary to inform the doctor about previous contact with animals. In addition, a blood test is done to detect antibodies. The analysis of the liquid in the resulting blisters can also provide information about whether an infection is present.

In contrast to humans, animals suffering from foot-and-mouth disease have very clear characteristics. In addition to the typical blisters, the disease becomes noticeable through an unusually strong salivation and high fever. If an animal is infected, the disease spreads from the mouth area through the esophagus to the stomach.

The resulting pain leads to the affected animals refusing food completely after just a few days. At the first sign of foot-and-mouth disease in an animal, the responsible veterinarian must be notified immediately. In humans, however, the disease is not notifiable and harmless.


As a rule, foot-and-mouth disease does not cause any symptoms or special complications. As a rule, people do not react to this disease, so that it does not lead to a health-endangering condition for those affected. However, the body itself can produce antibodies against foot-and-mouth disease.

In some cases, those affected by foot-and-mouth disease suffer from the common symptoms of a cold or a flu-like infection. This leads to fever, body aches and severe headaches. In most cases, the symptoms themselves disappear relatively quickly and do not lead to complications or consequential damage. For this reason, no special treatment by a doctor is necessary and it usually heals itself.

Affected animals must be kept separately, however, so that the foot-and-mouth disease is not transmitted further. The symptoms can be reduced and combated with the help of medication. No further treatment or medication is necessary. Foot and mouth disease does not lead to a reduction in life expectancy in humans.

When should you go to the doctor?

Since foot-and-mouth disease is a highly contagious disease, a doctor should be consulted at the first sign of the disease. Among people, children are usually affected by the disease. Sudden changes in the complexion indicate an irregularity that needs to be clarified by a doctor. If the symptoms occur in older children or adults, a doctor must be consulted immediately. If painful red dots form on the skin, this is a cause for concern. The hands, feet and mouth are affected. If the symptoms spread within a few hours, you need to see a doctor.

A rash and skin discoloration accompanied by itching should be seen by a doctor. In the case of fever, sore throat and body aches as well as a loss of appetite, the symptoms should be clarified. If there is a decrease in the usual performance, social withdrawal or a loss of well-being, a doctor should be consulted. If children lose the fun of playing or show other behavioral problems, the observations should be discussed with a doctor. Increased sweating under the soles of the feet or in the palms of the hands are further indications of an existing irregularity that should be examined by a doctor.

Treatment & Therapy

It is not possible to treat foot-and-mouth disease in a sick animal. To date, there is no therapy that renders the causative FMD virus harmless. Since foot-and-mouth disease primarily affects livestock in large numbers, it is essential to kill animals at the first suspicion of the disease in order to prevent the disease from spreading.

However, foot-and-mouth disease is not always deadly. Adult animals in particular can survive the disease if kept isolated from other infected animals. If a person falls ill with foot-and-mouth disease, treatment is often not necessary. The symptoms are very mild and subside after a short time. In exceptional cases, symptoms such as headaches and body aches or a slight fever occur. In these cases, conventional medication is used to relieve the symptoms. However, the majority of human infections are completely asymptomatic.

Outlook & Forecast

In the case of a prognosis, a fundamental distinction must be made as to who it refers to. There are very good prospects of recovery for humans. These exist even if he does not consult a doctor at all. Complaints do not occur at all or are perceived as marginal. After about two weeks, the disease has completely healed.

Opposite prospects arise for the sick animals. Since foot-and-mouth disease has not yet been cured, all animals have to be killed. According to the legal requirements, there is also an obligation to kill cattle that have been in contact with the infected animals. The operation then becomes a restricted zone. The carcasses must be destroyed separately. This is intended to prevent spread through transmission.

Scientific studies have found that young animals in particular die from foot-and-mouth disease. With them it is about 70 percent, while the adult cattle survive 95 percent. However, these prospects are irrelevant in view of the decreed elimination of all possible risk animals. In addition, the necessary isolation of the animals cannot be realized in practice. Factory farming does not produce sufficient capacities.


Foot -and-mouth disease breaks out in livestock, where it may spread to humans. When the disease occurs, measures must be taken promptly to prevent the disease from spreading. Affected animal farms are surrounded by a restricted zone, and sick animals must be euthanized. Objects and people that have come into contact with sick animals must be thoroughly disinfected. This is done with acidic disinfectants that kill the acid-sensitive FMD virus.


If the foot-and-mouth disease could be cured with the treating doctor, there is no need for follow-up care. However, those affected should avoid areas of infection in the future and generally adopt a healthy lifestyle. The weakened immune system will need a while after the acute treatment to regain its usual stability. A positive attitude can promote the recovery process. It can happen that general tiredness and exhaustion persist, which is why patients cannot fully participate in everyday life. They are therefore often dependent on the help of relatives and friends. If unusual symptoms appear that make you feel unwell, consult a doctor immediately.

You can do that yourself

With foot and mouth disease, the person affected rarely needs special help, since the disease in humans is very rarely severe. However, every patient should know and, for the benefit of others, take into account that foot-and-mouth disease is a zoonosis that can be transmitted from animals to humans and vice versa. The disease is very difficult and very painful for animals and is often fatal.

Unlike in animals, an outbreak of the disease in humans is not notifiable. However, those infected should still consult a doctor and also be aware that the disease, which they can transmit to cloven-hoofed animals, can have economically devastating consequences and can destroy entire animal populations. Cattle, pigs, sheep, goats as well as red and fallow deer are particularly affected. Horses and donkeys do not get foot and mouth disease. However, wild animals such as rats and hedgehogs can become infected.

If you suspect FMD, you should definitely inform all pet owners with whom you have recently had contact. If you keep endangered animals yourself, you should inform the veterinarian immediately and stay away from all animal species that are at risk of infection. They must not be fed, milked or stroked in order to prevent infection. Pet shops and zoological gardens should also not be visited, as exotic animals can also become infected.

Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD)