A disease that only sometimes kills, but always cripples
Ankara, Turkey - FMD isn't transmissible to humans. Nor does it always kill the animals it affects. But it does leave them extremely weak, and recovery can stretch out over months.
"The disease is particularly insidious since it doesn't kill animals outright, but renders them sick and unproductive instead, leaving farmers to cope with their care, which can be costly," according to Nick Honhold, an FAO animal health expert stationed in Turkey.
"Fattened animals lose their weight, meaning that a farmer's past spending on feed goes down the drain," Honhold explains. "Dairy animals stop producing milk, and may never regain production because of the udder infections that follow. Breeding stock can become infertile. And draught animals are too weak to plough, again meaning productivity losses -- this is particularly problematic during ploughing or harvesting time."
Meanwhile, disinfection of animals and stables must be regularly undertaken, at not insignificant cost, while generous amounts of adequate feed is required to keep animals alive.
FMD is usually fatal only in young animals with no immunity and who are often too weak to resist, he says, while pregnant animals who are infected can miscarry.
Business gets on board
In Turkey FMD has long been a problem that farmers have simply been accustomed to coping with. But growing awareness of its hidden costs is now starting to translate into greater support for GDPC's efforts to stamp out the disease.
"Industry is starting to realize that persistent FMD causes serious economic problems," notes Dr Musa Arik, head of GDPC’s Animal Health Services. "They can't export their meat because of bans in importing markets on products coming from places where FMD occurs. There are not similar risks for dairy exports, but that sector is still affected."
As a result, he says, the business community is both doing more to address FMD concerns in the field and to lobby government budget-makers for more funding for GDPC.
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