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Foot-and-mouth symptoms in humans

Foot-and-mouth pyre
Livestock continue to be culled as a result of the foot-and-mouth outbreak  

LONDON, England -- Cases of foot-and-mouth disease in animals being passed to humans are extremely rare, UK health officials have stressed.

The human form is a very mild viral illness, which invariably clears up within a matter of weeks without the need for any specific treatment.

Symptoms include uncomfortable tingling blisters on the hands, feet and inside the mouth, just as in infected animals. Sufferers also have a fever and a sore throat.

Simon Gregor, a spokesman for the Public Health Laboratory Service told CNN that while not serious, the symptoms would be unpleasant.

The infection is not dangerous and there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission, or of transmission through the consumption of infected meat.

However, there is a risk of infection if a person comes into close contact with an animal infected with foot-and-mouth.

It is understood that a slaughterman in Cumbria undergoing tests for the human form of the disease came into contact with fluid from an infected cow during an accident.

Foot-and-mouth disease should not be confused with the human disease, hand, foot-and-mouth, which is unrelated and is a mild viral infection principally affecting young schoolchildren.

There has been only one other case of foot-and-mouth disease among humans in the UK, reported in 1966 in Northumberland.

Bobby Brewis, 34, a farm machinery salesman living on a farm, contracted the disease after reportedly having had only "indirect" contact with infected livestock. He suffered no lasting ill-effects from the viral infection.

It was suggested that he had an underlying skin condition which made him more susceptible to infection by the virus.

Elsewhere in the world, the transmission of the disease to humans is equally rare. The earliest recorded case was reported in 1695 in Germany.

Since the development of tests, the virus has been confirmed in more than 40 humans in Europe, Africa and South America.

Britain's Public Health Laboratory Service says it has been alerted to six previous suspected human cases of foot-and-mouth since the beginning of the current outbreak - but tests have proved negative each time.

Simon Gregor, of the PHLS, told CNN that foot-and-mouth in humans was "not something to panic about".

He said the number of cases in humans was very small compared to the number of animals infected, reflecting that "this is indeed an animal virus that doesn't very much like humans".

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Public Health Laboratory Service
UK Ministry of Agriculture
Department of Health
Foot-and-Mouth Disease

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