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foot-and-mouth disease

foot-and-mouth disease or hoof-and-mouth disease, highly contagious disease almost exclusive to cattle, sheep, swine, goats, and other cloven-hoofed animals. It is caused by a virus, specifically an aphthovirus, that was identified in 1897. Among its symptoms are fever, loss of appetite and weight, and blisters on the mucous membranes, especially those of the mouth, feet, and udder. Discharge from the blisters is heavily infected with the virus, as are saliva, milk, urine, and other secretions. Thus the disease is readily spread by contact; by contaminated food, water, soil, or other materials; or through the air. Humans, who seldom contract the disease, may be carriers, as may rats, dogs, birds, wild animals, and frozen meats.

Quarantine, slaughter and complete disposal of infected animals, and disinfection of contaminated material, are prescribed to limit contagion. There is no effective treatment. With vaccines, introduced in 1938, and sanitary controls, foot-and-mouth disease has been excluded or eliminated from North and Central America, Australia and New Zealand, Japan, and Ireland; and occurrences have become infrequent in Great Britain and continental Europe. The disease persists through much of Asia, Africa, and South America. Hand, foot, and mouth disease, which is primarily a disease of young children, is not related.

See publications of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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