Dr Tasaduq Hussain Itoo
During recent years ,there has been an alarming rise of Foot & Mouth Disease with recurrent outbreaks among animals in different areas of Jammu and Kashmir especially affecting the domestic stock at the most. Foot & Mouth Disease is a highly contagious and viral infectious disease in animals characterized by a sudden episode of high-grade fever lasting for two to three days followed by painful blisters in mouth and foot. The virus responsible for FMD is a picornavirus of Aptha virus family that is highly genetically variable.
The initial symptoms are mild, may arise early and the incubation period is usually 1 to 12 days. But as soon the virus forces its multiplication inside the host cells with subsequent release in the blood, the disease gets its aggressive way causing a high-grade fever which declines rapidly within two to three days followed by blisters in the mouth and foot. Once these blisters rupture, there is drooling of foamy saliva through mouth and a ruptured blister on foot causes lameness leading to a chance of secondary invasion by bacteria. In adult animals, weight loss is a common problem which may eventually last for few months. In newborn and young ones, the virus may invade myocardium causing myocarditis, cardiac arrest and death. The disease may affect both wild and domestic varieties of animals especially cattle, sheep, goats, antelope, pet dogs etc.
Since the disease is highly contagious, it may transmit by close animal to animal contact, through contaminated farming equipment, motor vehicles, contaminated clothes of farmers dealing with animals, through contaminated aerosols even from a long distance, feed supplements, fodder and fomites etc.
The disease rarely affects humans. Humans may get accidental infections through dealing with contaminated animals but very rarely. The virus being highly sensitive to stomach acid of humans, so it hardly affects. But the main precaution is to boil the milk to higher temperatures and sufficiently cook the meat of an infected animal before consumption. Though rare in humans but if infection ensues, the infected individual may present with malaise, fever, vomiting, ulcerative surface-eroding lesions in the mouth, vesicular lesions on skin etc.
Unfortunately, there has been a wrong practice on the part of people feeding their cattle forcefully. Though the mortality rate among adult animals suffering from FMD is very rare but most animals die because of this wrong practice as the food that is forcefully fed to these animals usually pave its way to lungs instead of normal food pipe leading to respiratory obstruction and distress, ultimately death. Don’t forcefully feed such animals. Whatever food they take on their own, let them. If these animals don’t take or eat anything on their own due to painful blisters in their mouth, put them on I.V.line of Dextrose and other electrolytes. Once you suspect an animal with FMD, isolate that one from the rest of animals lying in the same vicinity.
As the main causative agent is a virus, so there is no specific treatment to the disease. The disease eventually recovers within few weeks to few months on their own. But to prevent secondary infections that may harbour due to ruptured blisters, we usually recommend low-dose antibiotics, an anti-septic spray for wound healing, a mouth wash to maintain oro-dental hygiene and sometimes i.v dextrose infusion and other electrolyte suspensions.
Moreover, the virus responsible for FMD causes immunosuppression to a large extent, so prompt vaccination is a key to prevention. But as the virus being highly genetically variable, the cross-vaccination usually goes unmarked. There is need of specific vaccines for different genetically variable strains. There is no need to be precautionary while dealing. Use gloves, face masks and other protective wearings if needed.
Good biosecurity should be practised at all times, not just during an outbreak. Taking the right measures in the early stages of an outbreak e.g. before we know disease, can help prevent or reduce its spread.
* Keep everything clean – materials like mud or bedding on clothes, boots, equipment or vehicles can carry the virus from farm to farm or between different groups of livestock on the farm. Wear clean protective clothing and footwear for use solely on your own farm.
* It is essential that you clean yourself, your vehicle and everything you carry thoroughly when you move between different groups of livestock on the farm; avoid visiting other farms unless absolutely necessary
* Do inspect animals regularly (at least daily) for signs of disease and keep different species of livestock separate wherever possible.
* Avoid moving animals from one part of the farm to another if possible, particularly between out farms and conacre(land meant for grazing)
* When handling your animals, be aware that sheep do not always show obvious signs of the disease and you could inadvertently infect other animals; wash hands after contact with livestock.
* Make sure you have approved disinfectant and cleaning material ready at your farm entrance, so that essential visitors can disinfect themselves before entering the premises and as they leave.
* Prevent any non-essential visits to your farm.
Dr Tasaduq Hussain Itoo