Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Management in Pigs/Swine: Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

FMD is a viral disease that affects pigs, sheep, and goats and poses a significant hazard to the global livestock industry. An Aphthovirus causes the disease with seven serotypes, each with different strains. The virus is spread by contacting infected animals or their waste, breathing in secretions from infected animals, or eating feed from infected animals. Animals with FMD have fever and blisters on their muzzles, teats, and paws.

Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Management in Pigs/Swine

Morbidity can reach 100%, and young animals may die in vulnerable populations. FMD is still common in much of Africa, the Middle East, and southern Asia. FMD outbreaks can disrupt livestock output and cost billions to contain, like the 2001 UK outbreak. Biosecurity steps like isolating and slaughtering infected and at-risk animals and vaccination are essential for eradication.

Antigen ELISA serotypes the virus, and real-time RT-PCR confirms infection. FMD management needs government, international organizations, and livestock industry cooperation. Preventive steps, outbreak detection and control, and stakeholder communication reduce the disease’s effect on animal health, welfare, and livelihoods.

Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Management in Pigs/Swine

Causes of Foot and Mouth Disease in Swine

Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) in swine is caused by a highly contagious virus belonging to the Picornaviridae family. There are seven known serotypes of the virus, with serotype O being the most common cause of outbreaks in swine. The virus is transmitted directly or indirectly through contact with infected animals and mechanical vectors such as people, vehicles, and equipment. Pigs can shed the virus up to 3,000 times more than cattle, making them a potential transmission source. The virus can also be introduced to previously FMD-free areas by importing infected animal products. 

The incubation period for Foot and Mouth Disease in Pig

Pigs typically incubate the FMD virus for two days. Animals have the virus in the pharynx and blood before the disease appears, so they can transmit it before symptoms appear.

Disease Cycle of Foot and Mouth Disease

The disease cycle of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) involves the introduction of the virus to a susceptible host population, followed by the replication of the virus in the host’s epithelial cells. The virus then spreads to other tissues and organs, causing fever, blisters, and erosions in the mouth, nose, and hooves. The infected animal sheds the virus in secretions and excretions, contaminating the environment and potentially infecting other animals. 

What are the Symptoms of Foot and Mouth Disease?

  • The disease is characterized by fever, anorexia, reluctance to move, and screaming when forced to move. 
  • The signs are followed by vesicles on the coronary band, heels, interdigital space, snout, mandible, tongue, and, in some cases, on the hocks and knees of pigs. 
  • Mouth lesions are uncommon and tend to be “dry” type, with no drooling. Sows may abort, and piglets may die without showing any clinical signs.
  • Additional symptoms of FMD in pigs include mild lameness, blanching around the coronary band, and a fever of up to 41.5°C. 
  • Affected pigs become lethargic, huddle among other pigs, and have little interest in feed. 
  • Depending on the severity of the vesicles, the horn of the foot may completely slough off, leading to chronic lameness in recovered pigs. 
  • Young pigs (<14 weeks old) may die without clinical signs of illness due to virus-induced myocarditis.

Diagnosis of Foot and Mouth Disease in Pig

Diagnosis of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) in pigs involves laboratory confirmation, as clinical signs can be similar to other vesicular diseases. Samples of vesicular epithelium or fluid should be collected and transported in a specialized medium. Real-time RT-PCR assays are commonly used to detect FMD virus (FMDV) genomes, and antigen ELISAs can determine the serotype.

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