DARMSTADT, Germany — Six children living in an officer housing area of Darmstadt have been diagnosed with foot-and-mouth disease, the virus that rocked the livestock industry and the British countryside two years ago.

The virus — typically a bane of cloven-hoofed animals and farming — is highly contagious, but fortunately its effects on humans are mild.

“It’s similar to the common cold, said Cynthia Vaughan, spokeswoman for the Army’s Europe Regional Medical Command in Heidelberg. “It’s characterized by a fever, sores in the mouth, and a rash with tiny blisters.”

Initial symptoms include a poor appetite and sore throat. The virus spreads via burst blisters, sneezing or other discharges.

Anyone worried about the possibility of foot-and-mouth disease should wash hands frequently, particularly after diaper changes.

Surfaces should be treated with a diluted bleach solution, and soiled clothing should be washed immediately.

Most patients recover in a week or so without medical treatment.

Though foot-and-mouth is considered vanquished in the United States since 1929, cases still occur in Europe. The main threat it poses is economic, as it can devastate farmers. In 2001, the United Kingdom ordered the slaughter of millions of animals during a disastrous outbreak there.

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