Comparison of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) and Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE)

 **Both diseases are foreign animal diseases neither occurs in the United States


 Foot and mouth disease (FMD)

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE)

Infectious Agent


Prion (altered normal protein)-?

Animals affected

Cloven-hoofed animals including cattle, swine, sheep, goats, deer, elk, wildebeest

Cattle; there are other Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies such as scrapie in sheep, Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in deer and elk, Cruetzfeldt Jacob Disease (CJD) of people


All continents except North America, Australia, Antarctica

31 countries including the U.K. and a number of E.U. countries

Characteristics of Disease

Acute, systemic infection causing fever and blisters on lips, tongue, gums, teats, and hooves; symptoms are lameness, salivation, reduced appetite, decreased milk production.

Chronic, progressive degenerative disease of the central nervous system; symptoms include changes in behavior, incoordination, abnormal posture, falling down, difficulty rising

Incubation period

From 2 14 days

From 2 8 years

Age at onset

Any age

Generally older than 3 years of age; most cases are in dairy cows between 3 and 6 years of age

How transmitted

Direct (animal to animal) and indirect contact with contaminated feed, water, insects, clothing, vehicles; people and vehicles can carry the virus from animal to animal or farm to farm; semen and embryos can be infective

Consumption of feed contaminated with the prion (bone meal); there is no evidence BSE is transmitted horizontally (animal to animal); vertical transmission (mother to offspring) may occur at a low level







Mortality Rate (Death Rate)

Low; high in very young animals

High; virtually 100%

Morbidity Rate (Infection Rate)

High; virtually 100% of exposed



**Both diseases are foreign animal diseases neither occurs in the United States


Foot and mouth disease (FMD)

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE)

How Diagnosed

Clinical signs; confirmed by laboratory tests (virus detection or isolation, positive serology)

Clinical signs; testing of brain after slaughter; live animal tests are being developed

Zoonotic Concern (does it affect people)

No; (only a few cases ever reported; mild symptoms)

Yes; people that have consumed meat products derived from cattle; disease in people is called vCJD

Food Safety Issue in Affected Countries


Yes; high risk materials include brain, spinal cord, nerves, intestines, lymph nodes, spleen

Pathways of Entry into the U.S.

Infected ruminants and swine; contaminated ruminant and swine products; civilian and military passengers with contaminated clothing or foot gear or carrying prohibited products; airborne (>10 km-land; 100 km-over water); contaminated farm equipment and cargo containers; pets with contaminated hair coats

Importation of cattle incubating the disease and/or contaminated rendered material

Primary risk reduction strategy in the U.S.

Prohibition of imports of live ruminants and swine, and products of ruminants and swine from countries with FMD

Prohibition of live cattle, cattle products, and rendered materials from countries with BSE (1989 for U.K.; extended to E.U. in 1997)

Other U.S. Safeguards

Inspection of passengers and baggage for prohibited products (x-ray of baggage, interviewing passengers, dog teams that can detect prohibited products); prohibition of dirty farm equipment; disinfection of dirty foot gear

Voluntary cessation of use of adult sheep in cattle feed (1989); mammalian to ruminant feed ban (1997); targeted surveillance activities; tracing, quarantine of cattle imported before importation ban, and testing of them after euthanasia


Yes but must be specific to the virus type; use of vaccination tightly controlled

No vaccine

Eradication Strategy Used by Affected Countries

Euthanasia and disposal of infected and exposed animals; milk also must be treated and disposed of; strict movement controls

Slaughter of clinical cases and herd of origin; infected herds are rendered; rendered product incinerated; incinerated product buried; age limitation for (normal) slaughtered animals

Resistance to inactivation

Susceptible to heat, low or high pH, specific disinfectants (e.g. lye, strong chlorine solutions)

Resistant to heat, UV light, ionizing radiation and common disinfectants; rendering does not inactivate the agent

 Prepared by:  Dr. R. D. Willer              Return to VMAT or AAVDM Homepage 
State Veterinarian
State of Arizona
602-542-4290 fax