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Fact Sheet – Foot and Mouth Disease

Definition of Foot and Mouth disease

Foot and mouth disease (FMD) is a severe, highly contagious viral disease of cattle, swine and sheep and other cloven-hoofed animals such as goats, deer and bison. Horses are not affected.

Risk to human health

Human cases are extremely rare, generally mild and most often associated with consuming infected milk or having direct contact with FMD blisters.

FMD is an animal disease and not related to a disease in humans caused by the Coxsackie virus called hand, foot, and mouth disease.

Clinical signs of FMD

FMD is characterized by:

Many affected animals recover, but the disease leaves them weakened and debilitated.

FMD can be confused with several other animal illnesses. These include:

It can also be mistaken for contact dermatitis due to trauma or chemical contamination (toxic plants).

Geographical distribution of FMD

The disease is currently present in many areas of the world such as Africa, Asia, the Middle East and parts of South America (mostly Venezuela) . Canada, the U.S., Mexico, Central America, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, and several other countries are considered free of FMD.

FMD was last reported in the province of Saskatchewan in Canada in 1952.

The transmission and spread of FMD

FMD is one of the most contagious animal diseases. An outbreak can spread by direct, indirect and airborne transmission.

Transmission by direct contact can occur when animals infected with the virus have direct contact with other susceptible animals. Sources of infection include nasal secretions, skin lesions, milk, urine, and faeces.

Indirect transmission occurs when susceptible animals:

Airborne transmission occurs when infected animals exhale large amounts the virus into the air. The virus can spread by air over long distances. Swine contribute more to airborne transmission because they excrete very large quantities of virus compared to other species.

If an outbreak of FMD occurred, the virus could spread rapidly throughout Canada, due to routine livestock movements. Unless detected early, eradicated immediately and strict movement restrictions are implemented, the economic losses could be extensive. The potential role that wildlife such as deer, elk and bison, could play as a reservoir for the virus is largely unknown.

Measures producers can take to prevent the spread of FMD

To prevent the spread of FMD and other diseases, biosecurity measures should be implemented on the farm.

All animals, feed, bedding and semen should be purchased from reputable suppliers. New animals should be held for a period of isolation prior to introducing them to the herd.

All workers and visitors must wear clean clothes and boots dedicated to use in the production zones. Any person who has been in a country where FMD has been detected should not be allowed to enter the farm for 14 days after entering Canada. If access is absolutely required, this period may be reduced to a minimum of five days, following extensive personal decontamination. 

Vehicles and equipment must undergo proper cleaning and disinfection before entering and exiting the farm.

Producers should regularly monitor the health of their animals, and immediately report any suspicion of illness to a veterinarian.

FMD diagnosis

The disease diagnosis is confirmed by laboratory testing. In Canada, confirmatory testing for FMD is done at the CFIA's National Centre for Foreign Animal Diseases (NCFAD) in Winnipeg.

FMD treatment

There is no treatment for this disease.

Measures in place to protect Canadian livestock from FMD

FMD is a "reportable disease" under the Health of Animals Act. This means that all suspected cases must be immediately reported by law to the CFIA for investigation by inspectors.

The CFIA does not permit imports of susceptible animals and animal products from countries that are not recognized by Canada as being "free of FMD," unless the products have been processed in a manner that destroys the virus.  

Travellers entering Canada from any country are required to declare all animals and animal products. They must also report if they will be visiting a farm while in Canada.

CFIA response measures to an FMD outbreak

In the event of an FMD outbreak, the CFIA's strategy would be to eradicate the disease and re-establish Canada's disease-free status as quickly as possible.

In an effort to eradicate FMD, the CFIA would use its "stamping out" policy, which includes:

More details on CFIA's response to FMD are available under Top Questions.

Owners whose animals are ordered destroyed may be eligible for compensation.

Additional information

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