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Foot and Mouth Disease

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Flock of sheep on a mountain
Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) is one of the most infectious disease affecting animals and can spread rapidly if uncontrolled.

Among farmed animals cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and deer are affected. Any wild cloven-footed animals can also contract it and carry infection.

Foot and mouth disease (FMD) is caused by a virus of which there are seven main types. Each produces clinical signs that are very similar and the types are only distinguishable in a laboratory. A very small quantity of virus is capable of infecting an animal and the disease can spread rapidly if uncontrolled. The disease can spread on the boots, clothing and even the hands of a stockman who has handled diseased animals. Roads may also become contaminated and virus may be picked up and carried on the wheels of passing vehicles.

After being free of FMD since 1968, Great Britain suffered a return of the disease in 2001. FMD was confirmed first in England on 20 February 2001. The first case in Wales was in Anglesey on 27 February 2001. The entire outbreak lasted for 221 days and had a devastating impact on the farming industry, rural community and the wider economy across the UK. The UK was officially declared disease free on 22 January 2002.

FMD was again confirmed in GB on 3 August 2007 and lasted for 58 days. The 2007 FMD outbreak was confined to a relatively small area of south-east England. The UK was declared officially disease free on 22 February 2008.

FMD is currently endemic in parts of Asia, Africa, South America and the Middle East. Sporadic outbreaks have occurred in previously disease-free areas with Bulgaria most recently suffering an outbreak in Europe in 2011. For the latest news on FMD around the world please visit the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) website (external link).

The early reporting of any suspicion of disease is vital. If you suspect that any of your animals has FMD you should immediately contact your local Animal and Plant Health Agency office (external link).