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Press Release 01/17


Rome, 21 March 2001 -- "The battle against foot-and-mouth disease is a continuous struggle," warned Ms. Louise Fresco, FAO Assistant Director-General, Agriculture Department, in an opening address today at the 34th Session of the European Commission for the Control of Foot-and-Mouth Disease (EUFmd). The Commission is meeting from 21-23 March at FAO Headquarters in Rome.

"Foot-and-mouth disease remains one of the most serious diseases worldwide and Europe's long-term protection will depend on implementing disease control measures in the countries where the disease is endemic," said Ms. Fresco. "The threat this situation poses for Europe is absolutely real," she warned.

The virus strain that recently arrived in the United Kingdom (serotype 0) is native to the Indian subcontinent. Transboundary diseases often originate in the Middle East and Asia, Ms. Fresco said, adding: "Careful precautions needs to be taken in these regions in the interest of local economies and also in the interest of Europe."

In 1999, foot-and-mouth disease caused extensive cattle losses in Iraq, Ms. Fresco said. FAO responded to the Iraqi government's request for assistance and implemented an active animal health program in the country.

"Turkey and Iran play an essential role in the fight against cross-border diseases in the Middle East, because viruses frequently pass through these two countries and then threaten Europe," Ms. Fresco noted. She added: "The foot-and-mouth disease situation in Turkey continues to be worrisome, in spite of FAO's assistance through a regional technical cooperation program to fight the disease. Iran is also participating in the regional program."

Globally, the foot-and-mouth disease situation deteriorated in 2000, with the appearance of cases in Japan, the Republic of Korea, South Africa and in some countries in South America, which were free of the disease until very recently," said Ms. Fresco.

"FAO is always prepared to work toward better control of the disease worldwide and will continue to offer all its support for the work of the European Commission for the Control of Foot-and-Mouth Disease," Ms. Fresco added.

The Commission will review the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in Europe and discuss protective measures that various countries have taken to guard against its further spread.

The EUFmd Commission includes 33 member states -- practically all of Europe is represented. A number of other countries that are particularly concerned about the spread of foot-and-mouth disease are also participating.

On 17 February 1998, at the start of the 33rd Session of the EUFmd in Brussels, FAO warned that Europe might face further devastating animal disease epidemics due to long-distance transport of animals and increasingly dense livestock units. Again, on 6 April 1999, the Organization cautioned that foot-and-mouth disease could spread to Europe if tough prevention measures were not put into place in countries where outbreaks had occurred.

Foot-and-mouth disease is highly infectious, striking cattle, sheep, goats and pigs. Diseased animals suffer from open sores on the mouth and feet. The disease can cause severe economic losses and prevents the exportation of live animals, meat and dairy products.

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Additional information:

A News Conference will follow the 34th Session of the European Commission for the Control of Foot-and-Mouth Disease on Friday, 23 March 2001 at 11:30 a.m. in the Iran Room, Building B, at FAO Headquarters, Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, Rome.

The participants will be: the Chairperson of the Commission (to be elected during the34th Session),Yves Leforban, Secretary of the European Commission for the Control of Foot-and-Mouth Disease, Dr. Kris De Clercq, Chairman of the Research Group of the Standing Veterinary Committee, Dr. A. J. M. Garland, Spokesperson for the United Kingdom's Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food and Yves Cheneau, Chief of FAO's Animal Health Service.

Interpretation into Italian will be provided at the News Conference. For accreditation, please arrive outside the Iran Room in Building "B" before.

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