The Structure and life-cycle of foot-and-mouth disease

The FMD virus is an extremely virulent disease which affects cloven-hoofed animals. Although there are several preventative and controlling techniques, there specific treatments which cure infected animals quickly and efficiently. With our increasing knowledge surrounding the genome of the virus, its structure and lifecycle, in the future, it is likely that more successful vaccines will be discovered which provide far better treatment of the disease than current vaccines and other preventative treatments.

FMD is a devastating disease of livestock. All species of cloven-hoofed animals are susceptible and the disease is extremely contagious. The disease is characterized by fever and blister-like lesions followed by erosions on the tongue and lips, in the mouth, on the teats and between the hooves. Many affected animals recover, but the disease leaves them debilitated.

The pain produced by the lesions inhibits eating and consequently results in severe losses in meat and milk production due to loss of weight, depression and lameness. Recovered animals normally do not regain lost weight for many months and cows rarely produce milk near their former rate of production. Lesions in the mouth cause profuse salivation in affected animals, creating stringy masses of saliva.

The structure and life cycle of the FMD virus:

FMD is the most contagious viral disease of animals. The small dose required to infect, the large amount of virus excreted, and the variety of routes of infection and routes of excretion all contribute to the extreme contagiousness of the disease. The incubation period of FMD is usually 2 to 14 days. In some circumstances longer incubation periods have been recorded, particularly if the infecting dose is low. The disease is of high morbidity and low mortality - mortality is only significant when young animals are infected, in which case neonates may die due to a peracute myocarditis (2).

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