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Livestock Hoof and Mouth Disease

Livestock Hoof and Mouth Disease (HMD) is a highly contagious viral illness among animals with cloven hooves. This includes cattle, sheep, goats, and swine. As the name suggests, the disease is often manifested through blister-like lesions in the mouths and between the hooves of animals. HMD can be spread quickly among animals and also be spread by humans, although actual human infection is rare. While HMD has had devastating effects in the UK and Europe, efforts to control this problem in livestock in the U.S. have so far been successful since the disease was eradicated here in 1929.

Livestock Hoof and Mouth Disease is caused by a virus that can live in the air and on a host for as long as a month, if environmental conditions are ideal. In many cases in Europe and the UK, the cause was found to be uncooked food waste that was being fed to pigs. There are at least seven different known types of HMD, in addition to many subtypes of the virus. This is one of the reasons that eradicating the virus is so difficult. Although there is a vaccine, in order for a vaccine to work properly it needs to be specifically tailored to match the particular strain of the virus.

One way Livestock Hoof and Mouth Disease is spread is by infected animals being introduced into uninfected herds. This is one reason that quarantining new animals can be so important to the overall health of the herd. Another cause of the spread of HMD is uninfected animals being transported in the same vehicles or held in the same facilities that were previously used for infected animals. Animals can become directly infected by eating contaminated food, such as raw or undercooked garbage that contains infected meat or animal products. When people wear contaminated clothes, or use contaminated equipment, any animals they come into contact with can potentially become infected.

Symptoms of Livestock Hoof and Mouth Disease include a very high fever that lasts for two to three days, and then drops quickly. In addition to the lesions in the mouth, animals with HMD often have excessive drooling or foamy saliva. The lesions on the hooves of infected animals can burst, causing lameness. Infected animals often lose a great deal of weight and recovery can be a very slow process. In dairy animals, milk production can be significantly affected by HMD.

Livestock Hoof and Mouth Disease is highly contagious and any animals suspected of being infected should be quarantined immediately. HMD is often fatal to very young livestock or those whose health is otherwise compromised. Among otherwise healthy livestock, HMD can have long-term effects that result in a very slow recovery.

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