Outbreaks occur in many countries worldwide, except Australia, Indonesia, North and Central America. In coutries where it is endemic, especially poorer countries where vaccinations stategies are limited, FMD causes massive animal loss and economic hardship for the cattle industry.
FMD virus is an aphthovirus (family Picornaviridae). The virus is relatively unstable outside the host and easily destroyed. Close contact between cattle is essential for spread of the disease, usually by aerosol transmission, fomites (recovered cattle, contaminated food, milking utensils, etc) or mechanical vectors such as dogs and cats.
FMD is not a fatal disease and most affected cattle show clinical signs for 3 - 4 days followed by eventual recovery. The disease spreads rapidly in naïve cattle herds.
Fever, anorexia, reduced milk yield, and oral and hoof lesions predominate. Vesicles, erosions und ulcerations in the mouth and hairless parts of the skin, in particular on the feet, are visible. Vesicles may also appear on teats, causing mastitis. Young calves may die due to FMD virus causing an acute pericarditis.
Diagnosis must be confirmed by a government statutory body as this is a notifiable disease.
The disease must be distinguished from other causes of stomatitis including bovine mucosal disease, malignant catarrhal fever, rinderpest, peste des petits ruminants, contagious ecthyma, blue tongue, epizootic haemorrhagic disease, papular stomatitis and vesicular stomatitis.
Slaughter of all affected and in-contact susceptible animals and strict restrictions on movement of animals and vehicles around infected premises is usually required.
In countries where FMD is endemic, vaccination protocols have been established to minimise outbreaks. A systematic surveillance and communication network is essential to provide accurate information in controlling pandemics.
Experimental studies have shown that development of RNA interference (RNAi) genes can be used for cultivation of transgenic cattle immune to FMD virus.
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