Foot and mouth disease (FMD) threat persists | Western Cape Government



Foot and mouth disease (FMD) threat persists

15 May 2024

Despite ongoing efforts by national and provincial veterinary services, the threat of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) looms large following its spread from the restricted zone surrounding the Kruger National Park in 2022. This was attributed to unlawful animal movements and auctions.

A recent outbreak in the Humansdorp area of the Eastern Cape, approximately 100km from the Western Cape border, underscores how rapidly FMD can be transmitted. While most reported outbreaks in the country are contained, those in KwaZulu-Natal and the latest in the Eastern Cape remain unresolved. Western Cape Veterinary Services is urging producers to remain vigilant.

FMD is a highly contagious viral disease of cloven-hoofed animals such as cattle, sheep, goats and pigs. The current outbreak is affecting cattle and buffalo. The FMD virus causes painful blisters in the mouth that lead to loss of appetite and excessive salivation. The skin around the claws can also become ulcerated, red and swollen, resulting in lameness. The disease has an incubation period of two weeks from when the animal becomes infected until it shows clinical signs. During this period, animals appear normal and healthy, but can silently spread the disease. For this reason, no movement of animals can be considered safe without a 28-day quarantine period.

Notably, the Western Cape remains FMD-free. All livestock owners are urged to continue to only purchase animals from reliable sources, and preferably not from affected provinces. Furthermore, it is highly recommended that a veterinary certificate accompanies the animals. A private veterinarian indicates on the certificate that the disease does not occur in the area of origin and that the animals are clinically healthy. Animals must then be kept isolated for a period of at least four weeks at the farms to which they have been transported before they are integrated with the rest of the herd.

Buying animals at an auction remains very risky and is not advised. Animal transport vehicles and feed can also be a source of FMD virus. Vehicles should be cleaned and disinfected after animals are unloaded and before they are allowed to enter a property that keeps livestock. Feed, especially hay, should only be bought from known sources and areas free of infection.

Through collaborative vigilance in animal movements, we can prevent the disease from entering our province and the severe economic losses that can accompany this.

If there is any suspicion of FMD, or for any further enquiries, contact details for your local state veterinary offices are available at:

Media Enquiries: 

Mary James

Head of Communication

Cell: 084 817 2376