Foot and mouth disease

Foot and mouth disease (FMD) is a highly contagious viral disease of livestock causing fever followed by the development of vesicles (blisters) chiefly in the mouth and on the feet.

FMD is generally not lethal to adult animals, but it can kill young animals and cause serious production losses.

It affects cloven-hoofed animals (those with divided hoofs) including:

  • cattle
  • buffalo
  • camels
  • sheep
  • goats
  • deer
  • pigs.

FMD is not considered a risk to public health as infection from animals to humans is extremely rare. FMD should not be confused with the human disease (hand, foot and mouth disease), caused by a different virus which commonly affects young children.

It is not present in Australia but is endemic throughout the Middle East, Africa, Asia and most of South America.

The most significant risk of entry of FMD into Australia is through illegal entry of meat and dairy products infected with the FMD virus and subsequent illegal feeding of these products (swill) to pigs.

Most countries would ban our livestock and livestock products as soon as foot and mouth disease is found. It is unlikely these restrictions would be lifted until Australia could prove that the disease had been eradicated.

The economic effects of an outbreak of FMD, would be enormous to individuals, the farming industry, and subsidiary and support industries.

Australia’s major livestock industries would be directly affected from export market closures and the disruption to production associated with the disease and response activities.

There would be significant flow-on economic losses and social impacts to many rural and regional businesses that rely on livestock industry revenue.

FMD is a notifiable exotic disease and any suspected or confirmed cases must be reported to Agriculture Victoria on the Emergency Animal Disease Hotline 1800 675 888 (24/7) or to your local Agriculture Victoria Animal Health and Welfare staff.

Further details on foot and mouth is available on the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment website.

Signs of the disease

The following symptoms can be early signs of the disease:

  • lameness
  • long strings of sticky saliva (cattle)
  • blisters

Photo of an unruptured blister on tongue

Blistered upper gum in livestock

Blistered hoof being held by gloved hands

More information

The following websites have more information:

Page last updated: 27 Sep 2021