sealPurdue News

April 2001

Background on foot and
mouth disease


Symptoms of foot and mouth disease

Foot and mouth is a quick-spreading viral disease found in cattle, swine, sheep, goats, deer and other cloven-hoofed ruminants. Blisters form around the coronary band at the top of the hoof and in the mouth, eventually bursting. Signs of infection are lameness, fever and drooling. Infected animals will smack their lips as well. Animals are infectious as soon as they show clinical signs.

How the disease spreads

The disease spreads by animal-to-animal contact. People can carry the disease on their clothes or shoes. Foot and mouth also can be spread in the air. There is no human health risk involved with foot and mouth disease. Hand and mouth disease, found in young children, is not related.

The disease's incubation period is two to eight days, depending on animal species. It takes two to three weeks to clear foot and mouth from an area once the disease is quarantined and can no longer spread.

Prevention of foot and mouth disease
in the United States

The United States has been free of foot and mouth disease since 1929. "We have a stamping out policy in our country regarding foot and mouth," says Simon Kenyon, Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service veterinarian. "As soon as an animal is diagnosed with foot and mouth it is slaughtered, along with any contact animals. Great Britain has a stamping out policy as well." State-to-state movement of animals requires certification that animals are disease free at each state border.

Kenyon says livestock owners need to report suspicious livestock diseases they have not seen before. He says the livestock industry is fortunate to have such a close working relationship with veterinarians. Producers and veterinarians work together daily on animal health issues.

The public should avoid bringing any meat or milk products into the United States from Europe that have not been inspected by the United States Department of Agriculture. Travelers who have been in the British countryside should not come in contact with a susceptible animal for seven days.


The United States is able to do a rapid test to diagnose foot and mouth. A sample is taken on the farm and then air freighted to USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. After APHIS receives the sample, it takes two to three hours to confirm and detect the strain. It takes approximately 24 hours for the test to be taken on the farm and confirmed with APHIS.

British foot and mouth disease epidemic of 1967

Kenyon was a college student at London University in the Royal Veterinary when foot and mouth disease hit Great Britain in 1967. When he went home to his dairy farm for Christmas break, Kenyon had to wash all of his clothes and his car before going near the farm. Kenyon shut the gate behind him and never left his home until well into the new year because a nearby farm had foot and mouth disease in the dairy herd. Kenyon's son is currently a veterinarian in England.

Kenyon has experience with foot and mouth disease outbreaks in Africa and the Middle East, where he worked as a veterinary officer before coming to Purdue.

Simon KenyonJennifer Doup, News Writer
Purdue University Cooperative Extension veterinarian Purdue News Service
Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine (765) 494-6682
(765) 494-0333 or (317) 876-7559 Home: (765) 482-5250
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