Soremouth (Contagious ecthyma, "orf")




Contagious ecthyma is a frequent disease of sheep and is occasionally found in goats. It is spread by a parapoxvirus that is highly contagious. Animals that have not developed immunity (from vaccination or previous infection) will contract the disease from others which have been recently vaccinated.

NOTE: (of 12/30/01) I'm not sure that one could say there has been a recent increase in soremouth among goats, but I have received a lot of e-mails lately from people describing symptoms in their herds which have all the characteristics of soremouth.

It affects primarily the lips and noses of young animals. If they are nursing off dams which have not previously had the disease or been vaccinated, the dams will also display identical sores on the teats and udder where it may cause mastitis. The sores start as small red spots which form blisters that burst to form ulcers. These are followed by characteristic grayish-brown cauliflower-like scabs. There will be spontaneous healing and the scabs will fall off in about three weeks. The skin at the corona of the hooves can also be affected.

If lesions around the mouth are severe, there may be difficulty in nursing or eating.


Immediately isolate any which show symptoms. Antibacterial creams can be used to prevent secondary infections.

Some people have reported success using a warm solution of Epsom Salts applied directly to the lesions until improvement is noted.

We highly recommend against soremouth vaccination unless ALL animals in the herd are vaccinated simultaneously and no unvaccinated animals are ever added to the herd. In short, there has to be a very compelling reason in order to begin a regimen of vaccinations. In reality, soremouth is very rare in goats and there is a good chance that the sores that look like soremouth are really something else. Furthermore, if they have soremouth now, they will never get it again.
Soremouth is easily transmitted to man, especially while handling the vaccine, which contains a live virus. It appears mostly on the hands and arms. If kids are vaccinated they will readily pass it on to unprotected mothers and visa versa.

The sores do NOT cause craters nor do they leave pits after they heal, which can help differentiate soremouth from other disorders.

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