JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – The highly contagious foot and mouth disease, which poses a threat to the livestock industry, has been detected in a northern district of South Africa’s Limpopo province, the country said on Tuesday.

Positive laboratory results for the viral disease, which causes lesions and lameness in cattle and sheep, were taken in the Vhembe District of Limpopo, which borders Zimbabwe.

“FMD is a severe, highly contagious viral disease which affects livestock with significant economic impact,” the department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said in a statement.

Foot and mouth disease (FMD) does not affect people but poses a threat to cloven-hoofed animals – such as cattle, goats and sheep.

The agricultural department said the World Organization for Animal Health has temporarily suspended South Africa’s FMD free status but exports were continuing as the affected cattle were not from commercial farmers.

“We have quickly quarantined the area so it does not affect the commercial livestock farming which will pose a danger to us as consumers and the export business,” said Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries spokesman Khaye Nkwanyana.

The affected area is under quarantine and investigations to verify the results and determine the extent of the outbreak are being conducted, the department said.

(Reporting by Tanisha Heiberg, editing by Ed Osmond)