What is ORF?

Humans become infected with ORF through sheep or goats infected with it.


Various names include scabby mouth, thistle disease, contagious ecthyma, infectious labial dermatitis or contagious pustular dermatitis. It cannot be transmitted from person to person.

What are the Symptoms of ORF?

After coming into contact with the ORF virus, it can take up to 5 days before it manifests on the outermost layer of the skin, often appearing on the hands or fingers, forearms, or face.


You may experience discomfort in the form of small, itchy red lumps up to 2-5cm in size. These lumps can be painful, and you may have more than one.


The condition progresses slowly, usually over 3-6 weeks. Initially, legions form, which then turn into pimples or blisters containing fluid that can be tender. Eventually, these lumps will start to dry and form a crust before healing completely without leaving any scarring.


There is also the possibility of:

  • Fever (high temperature)

  • Fatigue

  • Swollen lymph glands

Complications of ORF

If you have a weakened immune system, such as a chronic condition, it could lead to complications of ORF. These include:

  • Bullous pemphigoid is a condition that produces blisters on the skin

  • Blisters everywhere

  • Lesions that resemble tumours in size

  • An erythema multiforme rash

What are the Causes of ORF?

If their skin is broken or damaged, ORF can be contracted by people who come into contact with goats, sheep, or their carcasses. This contact can be through the animal itself or even contaminated equipment.

Following good hygiene practices when interacting with sheep or goats is essential. Wear gloves when handling animals, if possible. Additionally, it is important to frequently wash your hands and cover any cuts or abrasions on the skin.


It is possible to contract the condition more than once, but the subsequent infections may be less pronounced and take less time to clear up.

What is the Treatment for ORF?

Around six weeks is usually enough for ORF to heal on its own.


It is important to protect the area until the lesions are fully healed, as they may become infected. It is important that you:

  • If the lesion is wet, cover it with a waterproof bandage.

  • To prevent further infection, always cover the wound with a sterile dressing.

  • Be sure to cover the lesion when working with animals as much as possible.


You should contact a doctor if:

  • There is no healing or improvement of the lesion

  • Rapid growth or spread of the lesion

  • You have a fever

  • There is severe pain in your body


In some instances, the ORF may not heal without medical intervention and may require surgery to be removed. If bacteria cause the infection, a doctor will be able to evaluate the intensity of the illness and may recommend antibiotics to treat it.

Should you see a GP about ORF?

Generally, ORF will heal by itself within six weeks. Thus, medical intervention is only sometimes necessary.


If the lesion does not heal independently, if a fever is present, or if the condition is causing considerable discomfort, you should consult a doctor. Bacterial infection of the lesions is also possible and may require antibiotic treatment.

How can Mobi Doctor help?

If you suspect you may have contracted ORF, or if the symptoms have not cleared up, our doctors can provide guidance and assistance.


No matter what day, you can contact our doctors anytime. We offer video consultations so you can get an expert opinion on any condition you face. Don't wait any longer; book your appointment now!

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