Scientists studying foot-and-mouth disease have found that cattle with the virus are infectious for only a very short time, suggesting that mass culling previously used to reduce the disease’s spread may in future be avoided.
In research published in the journal ScienceMay 5, scientists found that even if the foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) virus is detected in a cow’s blood sample, it does not necessarily mean the cow is infectious at that time.
In fact a cow with FMD is only infectious for around 1.7 days, they said.
Mark Woolhouse of Britain’s Edinburgh University, who worked on the study, said the finding significantly altered scientists’ thinking about FMD and may have implications for other diseases too.
“This study shows that what we thought we knew about foot-and-mouth disease is not entirely true,” he said. “So what we think we know about human influenza and other infectious pathogens might not be completely accurate either.”
The researchers found that diagnosis of foot-and-mouth disease infection is possible during the approximately 24 hours before the animal becomes infectious.
This suggests that farmers might have time to remove the infected animals from a herd before they transmit the virus to others, potentially saving many animals from being culled.