This disease affects sheep and goats and is caused by a Parapoxvirus. Lesions most commonly occur on the mouth and face but can also occur on the feet, teats and genitalia. The parapoxvirus is present worldwide and can remain infective in the scabs in the environment for months to years.
The virus is spread by direct or indirect contact from environmental contaminants. It enters through abrasions or wounds of the mouth, teat, feet or genitalia. It then localizes in the tissues and is shed in the scab. Animals that are kept in the same area are at the greatest risk.
The infection is self-limiting, with most animals developing protective immunity; however reinfection is possible.
Symptoms: Early signs are small bumps or blisters on affected skin, usually around the mouth. Thick brown to black crusts form and are most evident. Lesions typically resolve in 14 to 21 days. Nursing lambs or kids are most likely to spread the disease to udders of susceptible ewes or does. Oral lesions may become severe enough to cause the animal to stop eating.
Diagnosis: Observation of clinical signs and skin biopsy.
Treatment: Treatment of individually affected animals is not provided unless lesions are severe. Consult a veterinarian.
Prevention: Put into practice control measures immediately. Affected animals should be separated from all the other animals. Prevent the scabs from falling off into the environment. Vaccines are available but not recommended in disease-free herds because the vaccine contains live virus and poses a contamination threat.
Contagious ecthyma is highly zoonotic and may produce lesions on the hands or fingers of a person handling infected animals. Therefore, it is extremely important to practice good hygiene. Disposable gloves should be worn when handling these animals and then properly disposed off in a trash can. Hands should be cleaned with an antimicrobial cleanser after handling.