How to contain the break out of deadly foot and mouth disease

Hundreds of thousands of livestock in Narok County are at risk of contracting a dangerous and highly contagious. Foot and mouth disease, which has emerged in the southern region. In spite of the viral diseases having less than 5 per cent mortality rate in adult cattle. It highly affects milk and meat production which are the main products from livestock.

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Although the disease (foot and mouth diseases), which has been reported in Transmara Sub-county, mostly affects cattle it also attacks goats and sheep. The county has more than 1.8 million cattle, goats and sheep.

Affected animals show reduced milk production, massive weight loss, mouth and feet blisters, froth from the mouth, quivering lips, among others symptoms of foot and mouth diseases.


John Mugambi, an animal health researcher a Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation says massive losses can be averted by three main ways.

“The immediate action farmers must take once upon suspicion is reporting to the authorities for a quarantine to be effected. But farmers can also restrict movement of their herds to common drinking and grazing areas because the infection is highly contagious,” he said.


The researcher says vaccination is the most effective control method, because it cannot be cured. Vaccination costs less than Sh150 and can be accessed from animal health service providers.

“More than one viruses cause foot and mouth disease and each has its own vaccine. But a multivalent vaccine is the most effective because it does not call for scrutiny of the type of virus to be targeted,” Mr Mugambi said.

Salt on dry grass

Another preventive measure is application of Magadi soda at the entry point into and out of cow sheds and homesteads-for free-range farmers. The salt, which is found in most agrovets, sterilises the feet of the animals and the visitors. It should be spread on dry grass.

Foot and Mouth Disease facts

Foot and mouth disease sometimes referred to as hoof and mouth diseases is an infectious and fatal viral disease that affects cloven-hoofed animals, including domestic and wild bovid. The virus causes a high fever for two or three days, followed by blisters inside the mouth and on the feet that may rupture and cause lameness.

Foot and mouth disease has severe implications for animal farming, since it is highly infectious and can be spread by infected animals through aerosols. Through contact with contaminated farming equipment, vehicles, clothing or feed, and by domestic and wild predators.

Its containment demands considerable efforts in vaccination, strict monitoring, trade restrictions and quarantines, and occasionally the elimination of animals. The virus responsible for the disease is a picornavirus, the prototypic member of the genus Aphthovirus.

Infection occurs when the virus particle is taken into a cell of the animal. The cell is then forced to manufacture thousands of copies of the virus, and eventually bursts. Releasing the new particles in the blood. The virus is genetically highly variable, which limits the effectiveness of vaccination.

In the early stage, the disease manifests itself among cows through a rise in temperature and the animal becomes dull. A milking cow will show a sudden drop in yield. Blisters begin to develop, usually within a few hours, most frequently on the upper surface of the tongue and the bulbs of the heels. Feeding and cuddling may cease and the animal is ‘tucked up’ with staring coat.

If at pasture, the animal will be away from the rest of the herd, and probably lying down. There is quivering of the lips and uneasy movement of the lower jaw. With copius, frothy saliva around the lips that drips to the ground at intervals a smacking sound is produced by partial opening of the mouth.

About the same time there is evidence of pain in the feet. The animal lies down constantly and, when forced to move. Walks very tenderly, occasionally shaking a leg as if to dislodge some object wedged in the hoof.

Lameness usually gets worse, until the animal can only hobble when moving on hard or uneven surfaces. Loss of condition is marked, partly on account of the fever and partly because the mouth is so painful that the animal is afraid to eat. Cows and heifers may develop blisters on the teats and resent any attempt at milking.

If the mouth is examined in the early stages, blisters on the dental pad, inside the lips, and sometimes on the muzzle, will be found, as well as those on the upper surface of the tongue.

At first the blisters are seen as small raised areas, whitish in colour and containing fluid: they quickly increase in size until they may be as big as half a walnut.

Two or more blisters may join to form a larger one, sometimes covering half the surface of the tongue. Later, the blisters burst and collapse, leaving the ‘skin’ loose and wrinkled, with a dead appearance.

On handling, the ‘skin’ is easily removed, leaving a raw surface underneath. When the blisters have burst the temperature falls, pain decreases and the animal may start to eat again.

The blisters develop on the feet about the same time as in the mouth, or a little later; they rarely appear first. Most commonly they occur at the bulbs of the heels. At the front of the cleft of the hoof, and in the cleft itself. They usually burst fairly quickly through movement of the feet, and then appear as a ragged tear exposing a raw surface.

The chief symptom is a sudden among sheep and goats is severe lameness, affecting one or more legs. The animal looks sick, lies down frequently and is very unwilling to rise.

Usually, the foot and mouth disease affects all four feet, and when the animal is made to rise, it stands in a half-crouching position. With the hind legs brought well forward, and seems afraid to move. Mouth symptoms are not often noticeable.

There are blisters on the feet at the top of the hoof. Where the horn joins the skin in the cleft of the foot. They may extend all round the coronet, and when they burst the horn is separated from the tissues underneath, and the hair round the hoof is damp. Unless complicated by foot rot, the foot is clean and there is no offensive smell. Blisters in the mouth, when they do develop, form on the dental pad and sometimes the tongue.

The chief symptom in pigs is sudden lameness. The animal prefers to lie down and when made to move squeals loudly and hobbles painfully. Though lameness may not be so obvious where the pigs are on deep bedding or soft ground. The blisters form on the upper edge of the hoof. Where the skin and horn meet, and on the heels and in the cleft. They may extend right round the hoof head, with the result that the horn becomes detached.

At a later stage new horn starts to grow and the old hoof is carried down and finally shed. The process resembles the loss of a fingernail following some blow or other injury. Mouth symptoms are not usually visible, but blisters may develop on the snout or on the tongue. It is important to note that the foot and mouth disease known as Swine Vesicular Disease, has identical symptoms to Foot and Mouth disease.

Therefore anyone who sees vesicular disease in pigs must report the sighting and treat the condition as suspected Foot and Mouth disease until laboratory tests prove otherwise. The virus is present in great quantity in the fluid from the blisters. It can also occur in saliva, milk and dung.

Contamination of any objects with any of these discharges is a danger to other stock. At the height of the disease, virus is present in the blood. Infected animals begin by excreting the virus a few days before signs of the disease develop. Pigs in particular produce large numbers of virus particles.

Airborne spread of the foot and mouth disease can take place and under favourable weather conditions the disease may be spread considerable distances by this route. Animals pick up the virus either by direct contact with an infected animal or by contact with foodstuffs. Other things which have been contaminated by such an animal, or by eating or coming into contact with some part of an infected carcass. In the past, outbreaks of the disease have been linked with the importation of infected meat and meat products.

The disease is spread mechanically by the movement of animals, people, vehicles and other things which have been contaminated by the virus. Trucks, Lorries, market places, and loading ramps – in or over which infected animals have travelled – are dangerous until disinfected


From the dry savanna of Ghana, Yendi. I love nature and always want to affect it positively. positivity and consistency is my synonyms. BSc Earth Science. Proud African, Agric Fanatic

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