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Foot and Mouth Disease

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Contact information for Animal and Plant Health Agency.
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Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) is one of the most infectious disease affecting animals and can spread rapidly if uncontrolled.

Exercise Blackthorn

Exercise Blackthorn was a GB exercise designed to test Government’s response to an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD).

Exercise Blackthorn was a real time National Exotic Notifiable Disease event which took place over 2 days on 25/26 April 2018. It involved all the UK administrations and tested the UK’s current contingency plans during a simulated outbreak of FMD. It also tested the Animal and Plant Health Agencies (APHA) operational response.


The EU Directive 2003/85/EC requires Member States to exercise their contingency plans either:

  • twice within a five year period; or
  • during “the five year period after the outbreak of a major epizootic disease has been effectively controlled and eradicated.”
More information is available on the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) website.


Among farmed animals cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and deer are affected. Any wild cloven-footed animals can also contract it and carry infection.

Foot and mouth disease (FMD) is caused by a virus of which there are seven main types. Each produces clinical signs that are very similar and the types are only distinguishable in a laboratory. A very small quantity of virus is capable of infecting an animal and the disease can spread rapidly if uncontrolled. The disease can spread on the boots, clothing and even the hands of a stockman who has handled diseased animals. Roads may also become contaminated and virus may be picked up and carried on the wheels of passing vehicles.

After being free of FMD since 1968, Great Britain suffered a return of the disease in 2001. The entire outbreak lasted for 221 days and had a devastating impact on the farming industry, rural community and the wider economy across the UK. The UK was officially declared disease free on 22 January 2002.

FMD was again confirmed in GB on 3 August 2007 and lasted for 58 days. The 2007 FMD outbreak was confined to a relatively small area of south-east England. The UK was declared officially disease free on 22 February 2008.

FMD is currently endemic in parts of Asia, Africa, South America and the Middle East. Sporadic outbreaks have occurred in previously disease-free areas with Bulgaria most recently suffering an outbreak in Europe in 2011. For the latest news on FMD around the world please visit gov.uk (external link).

The early reporting of any suspicion of disease is vital. If you suspect that any of your animals has FMD you should immediately contact your local Animal and Plant Health Agency office on 0300 303 8268.