After exposure for two hours to cattle with foot-and-mouth disease, each of the five species of deer found in the British countryside became infected. Clinical disease was typical and severe in the roe and muntjac deer, with some animals dying, less severe in the sika deer and usually subclinical in the fallow and red deer. Each species transmitted disease to its own species and to cattle and sheep. The amounts of virus present in the blood, and in oesophageal/pharyngeal samples and excreted as an aerosol during the course of the infection in the deer were similar to those recorded for the sheep and cattle in the same experiment. The fallow and sika deer commonly carried virus in the pharynx beyond 28 days after exposure; some red deer also became carriers. In epidemics of foot-and-mouth disease in the UK, it is likely that deer would have such intimate contact with farm animals as occurred in this study. The natural behavior of free-living deer in the UK suggests that, although the five species are susceptible to foot-and-mouth disease, they are unlikely to be an important factor in the maintenance and transmission of the virus during an epidemic of foot-and-mouth disease in domestic livestock.
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