6 Facts of Orf Disease in Goat You Should Know

We all want our beloved animals fellow always happy and healthy. For whatever reason we are keeping them, we are responsible for their well-being. The happy animal makes a happy owner/farmer and vice versa. That applies to all animals, including our goat.

Talking about goat again, have you know that you can keep goats as pets and even having them in your backyard? Because, yes, you can. Or maybe you are more interested in farming goat, like raising goats for profit from their milk, meat, and fiber? It’s also cool because goat farming is a promising business, you know. Either way, of course, we want our goats to be happy and healthy, but sometimes shit just happens. One of the diseases that might strike on goats is this one called Orf. First time hearing it or already familiar with it? Here we are going to talk about some facts of Orf disease in goat you should know. 

What is Orf disease?

Also known as sore mouth, scabby mouth, or contagious ecthyma, orf disease is a viral infection that primarily occurs in sheep and goats. Though it is endemic in sheep and goat herds worldwide, it can be found in other ruminants, too. Orf causes skin lesions and forms blisters on lips, muzzle, ears, eyelids, nostrils, as well as, though less commonly happen, in genitalia, udders, and feet of infected animals.

1. Caused by virus

Orf disease is caused by a parapoxvirus called orf virus. This virus transmitted to susceptible goats by virus-containing scabs from infected animals that fall off. Orf virus can remain viable in the environment and become a source of infection to other animals. A herd can become infected through contaminated fomites, like bedding, feed or trucks, as well as by direct contact. Young goats or kids might be very susceptible because they are unlikely to have been previously exposed to the virus and because their immune systems are still developing.

2. It could attack humans too

This is where it becomes problematic. One of the most annoying facts of Orf disease in goats that you should know is it is zoonosis, means it could be passed to us, humans. Yup, some goat disease might be transmitted to human and orf is one of the common ones. Infection occurs in the same way orf virus spreads to other goats. Same lesions are also seen if humans infected. Infected locations can include the finger, hand, arm, face, and etc. 

People at risk for this disease are those who work with goats, like shepherds, veterinarians, and abattoir workers. Every person who comes into contact with virus from an infected animal or fomites, such as a harness that has rubbed the animal’s sores, can become infected. Some activities that may lead to infection including bottle feeding, tube feeding,  shearing goats, petting or having casual contact with infected goats, handling infected equipment, working with goats when you have an open cut or skin sore, and being bitten by infected goats. 

But fear not, infected people rarely infecting other people. Inevitably, it is important to observe good personal hygiene and to wear gloves when treating infected animals. 

3. Relatively benign illness

Orf is a benign self-limiting illness as it healed itself in 4-8 weeks after progressing through distinct stages and leave no scars after healing. However, serious damage may be inflicted on the eye if is infected by orf virus even if you are healthy, and it may cause a life-threatening condition for the immunocompromised host.

4. Occur more than one

Yup, your goats may be infected more than once in their lifetime. But it takes time—usually years—to reinfect and usually less severe. 

5. Prevention 

Though Orf can resolve even without treatment, no one wants to have an itchy and painful lump on their fingers. Even your goats wouldn’t want that, too, right? To prevent Orf virus transmitted to your goats, do the following measures:

  • Reduce the possibility of mouth/muzzle cuts from your goats (e.g. remove the thorny plant from grazing areas).
  • Quarantine new goats until orf disease can be shelved.
  • Avoid bringing goats with orf virus infection to public events.
  • The orf virus is troublesome as it survives in soil, and carrier goats may not show symptoms unless the blisters form already. Thus, it is quite difficult to prevent transmission, but using the measures above may assist in prevention.
  • Some vaccines are available to help in prevention, but the use of the vaccine is only suggested for previously infected goats. Because vaccination will cause an orf virus infection to the previously uninfected goats. Note that all Orf virus vaccines contain live virus which can cause infection in humans. Therefore, only vaccines your goats after consulting the veterinarian. 

While for you, protect yourself from the infection with measures below:

  • Wear non-porous gloves, like rubber or latex, when handling goats and their equipment, especially if you have an open cut or sore and are handling their mouth or muzzle.
  • Practice good hygiene by washing your hands with clean, warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds. You can also use a waterless alcohol-based hand rub if there is no soap available and your hands are not visibly soiled.

6. No specific treatment

We’ve done all measures to prevent orf virus transmission, but sadly, shit happens. So how do we treat our lovely goats and ourselves? Currently, there is no approved specific treatment for orf virus infection. Though the sores may be painful and may become infected with bacteria if not properly managed by a doctor. If you are experiencing pain, fever, or notice that the sore is becoming rapidly larger or spreading, we suggest you see your doctor.

While for your goats, you only can assist them by ensuring infected goats receive sufficient foods and separating out the infected goats to slow down cross-transmission to healthy animals until the disease runs its course.