What is foot-and-mouth disease?

Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is a serious, highly contagious viral disease affecting cloven-hoofed animals. Animals affected include:

  • livestock such as cattle, pigs, sheep and goats
  • deer
  • camelids such as camels, llamas and alpacas.

Horses are not susceptible to infection with the FMD virus.

FMD can cause blistering in the hooves and mouths of infected animals, which may result in lameness, fever and excessive salivation. FMD may be fatal in young stock.

An FMD outbreak could cause major production losses and seriously affect Australia's international livestock trade. A 2013 study (PDF, 1.3MB) estimated that a large, multi-state FMD outbreak could cost Australia more than $52 billion in lost revenue over 10 years.

FMD has not occurred in Australia since 1872, but is common in some countries in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and some parts of South America. Increased globalisation through increased movements of people and products raises the likelihood of FMD entering Australia. Recent detections of FMD virus fragments in meat confiscated at Australian airports by the federal Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry highlight the very real possibility of pathogen entry through passenger and luggage movements.