Let us work together to control 
the disease

S.Y. Mangera

Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is caused by a germ called a virus. This germ is found in all body secretions of infected animals (saliva, urine, faeces, milk and even droplets from sneezing and snorting).

Animals get sick from FMD when eating or breathing in the germs from these body secretions.

All cloven-hooved animals can be affected


This disease is called foot-and-mouth disease because sick animals mostly get sores on their feet and in their mouths. They may show the following signs:

Sores on tongue


Blisters that are of different sizes and filled with fluid will appear in the mouth, mostly on the tongue. The blisters burst open and leave raw sores, which soon heal. This is usually painful for the animals and they may not eat. These animals will lose condition.

Because of the blisters animals may salivate, which is evident by drooling from the mouth.

Sores on feet

Blisters may also form at the skin-hoof junction that will also burst open and leave raw areas. Animals may be lame in one or more feet. Sometimes they may lose their claws or hooves.

Pigs can also develop these blisters on their snouts and on their "knees" or other bony parts of the body.

Dairy cows develop sores on their teats and often have severe mastitis. This results in a sudden drop in milk production.

Death may occur in young animals.

Sores on snout


FMD is present in most of the buffalo in the Kruger Park (KP). The buffalo do not show any signs of the disease but they may infect other animals in the KP or in the surrounding farming areas. Therefore, strict control measures are used to prevent FMD from infecting farm animals. In the areas surrounding the KP (called the redline area) FMD is controlled by limiting movement of animals by the use of legal movement permits and vaccinations. Vaccinated animals are branded with an F on the right side of the neck and are not allowed to leave the redline area. The vaccinated cattle act as a shield to prevent the disease from spreading to farm animals.

Outbreaks of FMD can occur if carrier buffalo or infected animals from the redline area are moved illegally into other parts of South Africa where animals are not being vaccinated against FMD. Outbreaks can also occur if the FMD germ is allowed into the country by illegally bringing in infected animals, animal products or swill. Swill is leftover food that can come from ships, trains and planes. This should never be fed to animals. This is how the recent outbreak in Camperdown (KwaZulu-Natal) occurred. Swill from hotels or restaurants within the country may be fed to animals provided it has been cooked for at least 60 minutes.

Depending on where outbreaks of FMD occur, different control strategies are applied. If the disease is not widespread and in farming areas where FMD has not occurred before, animals are killed and the carcasses destroyed. In these cases farmers are paid the market value of the animal or products destroyed, or given new animals as compensation. In the redline area cattle are vaccinated every 6 months. If an outbreak occurs in the redline area, animals are simply vaccinated again and left to recover. These animals may not be removed from the redline area anyway.

People in the areas surrounding an outbreak may suffer for a period while quarantine measures are in place because they cannot move or sell their animals or animal products.


One of these types has been found in the outbreak in Mpumalanga. The outbreak in Camperdown was caused by another type of FMD germ (virus) which has never before been found in South Africa.


There is no treatment for FMD. It is a controlled disease in South Africa. In the event of an outbreak the following is important:


For further information contact your
animal health technician, state or private veterinarian or

Animal Health for Developing Farmers
ARC-Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute
Private Bag X05, Onderstepoort 0110


Information provided by
Animal Health for Developing Farmers
ARC-Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute
Private Bag X05, Onderstepoort 0110

This information is available on the web:


Compiled by Directorate Communication,
Department of Agriculture in cooperation with the
ARC-Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute

Published by Department of Agriculture and obtainable from the 
Resource Centre, Directorate Communication, Private Bag X144, Pretoria, 0001 South Africa