Author Topic: So what is scabby mouth? Info from the Queensland Government  (Read 2156 times)

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So what is scabby mouth? Info from the Queensland Government
« Reply #1 on: September 04, 2012, 07:31:32 PM »
Livestock health
 Scabby mouth in sheep
Revised by Deborah Maxwell, Agency for Food and Fibre Sciences
Key points
  • Skin must be broken for the scabby mouth virus to gain entry. Damaged skin is often caused by prickly, dry or coarse pasture or hay.
  • Most sheep recover without treatment. Do not remove scabs, as this will delay healing. Recovered sheep are immune for two to three years.
  • Live scabby mouth vaccines are available but only recommended for properties where the disease is already present as it introduces a live virus into the flock.
  • Scabby mouth may infect humans, if suspected consult your doctor.
Introduction  Scabby mouth, also referred to as orf, contagious pustular dermatitis or contagious ecthyma, is caused by a virus from the Parapoxvirus genus, which usually attacks damaged skin areas on the lips of sheep and goats. It has little effect on general health, however the painful lesions around the mouth can result in animals eating less during the course of the disease. The virus can infect humans.
 Signs Skin must be broken for the virus to gain entry. Sharp, prickly, dry or coarse pasture or hay often predispose the disease as the damaged skin then allows entry to the virus.

Hard, thick, dark scales are seen near or on the lips. Scabs may also be seen on the hoof between the claws, or on the udder of lactating ewes.

A raw bleeding surface is seen if scabs are removed. As the disease progresses, the scabs are shed spontaneously and the skin beneath heals in two to three weeks.

Recovered animals are immune for two to three years, although lambs from immune ewes are not protected by colostrum (first milk).

Epidemics of scabby mouth are diagnosed from clinical signs. If there is any doubt, scabs may be collected and the virus inspected under an electron microscope. Blood tests that detect antibodies to the virus are available. If ulceration has spread to the gums, tongue or mouth, an accurate diagnosis is essential to differentiate the disease from bluetongue infection, and possibly foot and mouth disease.


Severe cases may need nursing but generally, the disease runs its course. Do not remove scabs, as this delays recovery. Supply soft palatable feed and be on the lookout for blowfly strike on the lesions.

 Prevention and control Effective live scabby mouth vaccines are available. They are only recommended on properties where the disease has occurred because the vaccine introduces live virus into the flock. Once vaccination begins, it is necessary to vaccinate the lamb drop every year. It is safe to vaccinate all sheep in an outbreak, but operators should treat the vaccine with care.

Importance to industry

Scabby mouth is important because people can be infected. Lesions are most commonly found on the hands or arms, at the site of cuts or wounds, after handling infected sheep. Many people have been infected and the lesions have been so small or mild that they are unaware of it, however, in rare instances the infection has been quite severe. Consult a doctor for further advice regarding treatment in humans.
Expensive shearing disputes can arise because the shearer's award allows that shearing can be stopped if there are affected sheep.

Disputes have involved debate on whether the condition found is actually scabby mouth or some other lesion that cannot be transmitted. Affected sheep should not be penned for crutching or shearing.

Further information For further information contact the DPI Customer Service Centre on 13 25 23 (Queensland residents) or (07) 3404 6999 (non-Queensland residents) between 8 am and 6 pm weekdays, or e-mail
This DPI Note is also published on the DPI's PrimeNotes CD-ROM.

Information contained in this publication is provided as general advice only. For application to specific circumstances, professional advice should be sought. The Department of Primary Industries Queensland has taken all reasonable steps to ensure the information in this publication is accurate at the time of publication. Readers should ensure that they make appropriate inquiries to determine whether new information is available on the particular subject matter.

« Last Edit: September 04, 2012, 07:33:07 PM by Export News Tasmania »