Contagious eruptive viral disease of cloven-hoofed mammals, characterized by blisters in the mouth and around the hooves. In cattle it causes deterioration of milk yield and abortions. It is an airborne virus, which makes its eradication extremely difficult.
In the UK, affected herds are destroyed; inoculation is practised in Europe and the USA. The existing vaccine for the disease leaves vaccinated animals as carriers that can infect those animals that remain unvaccinated, and a more effective vaccine is under development in the USA.
Despite health scares, a report in 2001 stated that there had only been 40 confirmed cases of foot-and-mouth disease in humans worldwide.
In February 2001, an outbreak of foot-and-mouth spread rapidly across the UK. By March, cases were discovered in France, Ireland, and the Netherlands. Severe restrictions on the movement of livestock were imposed across Europe; many countries banned imports of British and French meat, and some banned imports from all European Union countries. By the end of June 2001, over 5 million animals in the UK had been slaughtered due to the foot-and-mouth outbreak. The outbreak was the worst in world history.
The effect of the 2001 outbreak, the first in the UK since 1967, was devastating. Livestock, meat, and dairy exports were banned; much of the countryside was virtually shut down, seriously affecting the tourist industry; and many sports fixtures were cancelled. The UK was declared foot-and-mouth free in January 2002.