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Appendices

Archives: 1999 Session - Appendix 4

1999 Session of the Research Group of the Standing Technical Committee of EuFMD


Foot and Mouth Disease in the Mediterranean Maghreb

 

Report on the 1999 epidemic, history of recent epidemics and suggestions for control.

Yves Leforban, Secretary EuFMD; Karim Ben Jebara, Animal Health Officer AGAH; Youssef Lhor, Veterinary Services Morocco; John Ryan APO EuFMD; Ali Benkirane Animal Health Officer AGAH.

 

Summary

An outbreak of Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD), type O, occurred in the Mediterranean Maghreb (Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia) between the 20th February and mid-April 1999. The disease was first reported in Algeria where it spread quickly from the east to the west of the country. Isolated outbreaks of the disease were also reported in Tunisia and Morocco. The disease has mainly affected cattle (more particularly beef cattle) and vaccination campaigns organised within the three countries has prevented its further spread. Genetic characterisation carried out by the FAO/OIE World Reference Laboratory (WRL) for Foot-and-Mouth Disease in Pirbright, UK, has shown a close relationship between the strain isolated during this outbreak and strains previously isolated in C¡te d'Ivoire and Ghana, indicating that the virus is most likely of West African origin. A meeting of the CVOs of the three countries concerned was held in Tunis on 9 March 1999 with the participation of FAO, OIE, EC and the WRL to co-ordinate the measures in the countries involved. The destruction and slaughter of infected animals and large vaccination campaigns with monovalent vaccines allowed the disease to be brought under control in a very short period of approximately 2 months.

The authors review the events related to the 1999 epidemic and based on historical data on previous FMD epidemics in the region (and particularly the 1989 - 1992 outbreak which involved mainly sheep and caused heavy losses) propose measures for better control of FMD in Maghreb.

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Introduction

 

In contrast with the Middle East, where Foot-and-Mouth Disease is currently endemic, the situation of FMD in Maghreb has been relatively favourable for several years. Though the virus was introduced from time to time in the last decade, i.e. 1989 and 1994 the disease was brought under control and never became endemic. The more serious epidemic occurred in 1989 when virus type O was introduced to Tunisia and then spread westward to Algeria and finally to Morocco in 1991 causing heavy losses - particularly in sheep - in the three countries. The disease was eventually wiped out despite serological evidence of silent circulation of the virus in sheep in few villages for few years.

In February 1999, a new virus type O was again introduced to the region. The responsible strain had a special tropism for cattle with a very limited number of sheep showing symptoms of the disease. Rapid measures for control, including mass vaccination or revaccination, were taken which stopped the spread of the disease.

The paper describes the recent history of FMD in the region, compares the 1989 and 1999 epidemic and finally suggests measures for better control and prevention of FMD in the region.

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Livestock population in the Maghreb

The Mediterranean Maghreb includes the countries of Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco and constitutes a unique ecological area with very close relations and exchanges at all levels of their economies. Livestock and particularly small ruminants play a major socio-economical role in this region. Almost 60 million sheep and goats and 5 million cattle live in the region (Table 1). Extensive animal movements take place within and between countries related to pasture availability and trade. These movements are intensified further at the time of religious festivities. Considering these important movements the control of any contagious disease - including FMD - should be approached at a regional level.

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Situation of Foot-and-Mouth Disease prior to 1989

 

Foot-and-Mouth Disease Virus (FMDV) was introduced in the Maghreb at regular intervals between 1967 and as indicated in table 2 and figure 1. (Donaldson 1999)

 

This epidemic - due to type O - spread East to West from Tunisia to Morocco affecting mainly small ruminants with high mortalities in sheep in Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.

 

Tunisia:Table 4: mortalities in 1989 - 1990 in Tunisia

 

Sheep

Goats

Cattle

Young

50677

1155

186

Adults

2897

79

19

Total

53574

1234

205

 

The epidemic lasted from November 1989 to February 1990 (Table 3). The sheep population was severely affected with 2 215 outbreaks and 53 574 deaths. The mortalities concerned mainly young animals as indicted in Table 4.

Vaccination was carried out to combat the disease. By mid-February 5 261 138 heads of sheep, 570 394 heads of goats and 407 508 cattle, representing almost the total population of susceptible animals had been vaccinated.

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Algeria
The first case of FMD was reported in Algeria in May 1990 and the disease lasted up to December 1992 ( Table 3).

 

Table 5: Figures of the FMD epidemic of 1990 -1992 in Algeria

 

Outbreaks

Cases

Deaths

Slaughter

Sheep

516

6780

3928

1557

Cattle

141

181

18

29

Goats

 

51

1

7

Total

657

7012

3947

1593

 

The disease was controlled by mass vaccination which was pursued for 3 years as indicated in Table 6.

 

Table 6: Vaccination coverage in Algeria in 1990, 1991 and 1992

 

1990

1991

1992

Ovine

3 400 000

1 326 622

899 514

Bovine

305 459

152 004

50 542

Goats

751 900

46 336

31 412

Total

4437359

1524962

981468

 

No FMD has been reported in Algeria since December 1992
Preventive vaccination continued to be carried out after 1992, in the eastern border area considered to be at risk. Livestock in the rest of the country remained unvaccinated since then.

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Morocco
The first outbreaks were reported in Oujda Province at the beginning of January 1991. The highest incidence of the disease was observed in May Í91 in relation to the intensification of movements of sheep at the time of the religious festivities. The disease disappeared in February Í92 and reoccurred in April 1992. Provinces situated North of Agadir were severely affected. The last outbreak was observed in September 1992 in Settat Province (Central region).
Stamping out and Vaccination was applied.

 

Table 7: 1991-1992 FMD epidemic in Morocco

 

Diseased

Deaths

Destroyed

Sheep

Cattle

Goats

8366

8

12

435

7

1

43791

16

103

Total

8396

443

43910

 

Vaccination was then practised for three years following the occurrence of the disease.

 

Table 8: vaccination coverage in 1990, 1991 and 1992 in Morocco

 

1990

1991

1992

Sheep

1 100 000

4 351 034

6 940 019

Cattle

1 700 000

213 369

1 309 541

Total

2 800 000

4 564 656

8 249 560

 

Situation of FMD and control measures between 1992 and 1999 in the Mediterranean Maghreb

Before 1999, the last reported outbreaks in North Africa were chronologically as follows: Egypt, in March 1997, Libya in January 1994 and August 1994 in Tunisia. In Algeria, the last reported outbreaks were in December 1992 and in Morocco, in September 1992 (figure 3).

 

Algeria
Vaccination of cattle was continued in 1993 and 1994. When Tunisia and Libya declared the disease, vaccination of susceptible animals was carried out in Wilayates on the border in a 100 km deep zone. These vaccinations in the risk areas were continued annually up to January 1998. In the rest of the country, susceptible animals were not vaccinated since 1994.

 

Morocco
Annual vaccination of cattle was continued up to December 1997. 1 265 000 cattle (51% of the total population) were vaccinated in 1997 with a monovalent type O vaccine. Small ruminants remained unvaccinated. Serological surveys were carried out in cooperation with the WRL Pirbright at regular intervals (1992, 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1997) to verify whether the virus continued to circulate in sheep (Mackay, 1999).
The last serosurvey - carried out in September 1997 - demonstrated that there was no circulation of FMDV in small ruminants, therefore Morocco was then considered as free from the disease and that there was no risk of resurgence of FMDV. The only risk identified was a new introduction of FMDV. Based on these results vaccination of cattle was abandoned in 1998.

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Tunisia
Three outbreaks due to type O occurred in 1994. The first one occurred in May in the Gouvernorat of BÐja in the North, affecting both bovine and small ruminants. The two other occurred in June and August in South (Gouvernorat of Tataouine). FMD had not been reported since August 1994 in Tunisia.
Since the 1989 epidemic, vaccination of susceptible animals is carried out annually. Small ruminants are vaccinated with a monovalent type O vaccine and large ruminants with trivalent (O, A, C types) vaccine. Ten national campaigns of vaccination against FMD were organised with an average vaccination coverage of 65% in small ruminants and 73% in cattle. 296,229 cattle (67%), 3,378,284 small ruminants (51%) and 7,976 camels were vaccinated in 1997.
Two serosurveys with the objective of evaluating the protection conferred by the vaccination campaigns were carried out in Tunisia in 1990 and 1995.


The first investigation, carried out in 1990 with a representative sample of animals having blood samples taken 30 days after vaccination, gave the following results:

 

Species

Titre ³ 200

Titre > 60

Bovine adults

Young bovines

Ovine adults

Young ovines

Goats

82%

67.6%

60.3%

53.8%

38.5%

19%

19.4%

-

-

-

 

The 2nd serosurvey, which took place in 1995 with the collaboration of the WRL, allowed the determination of the following percentages of ovines protected (considering a titre of 100 as protective):

 

  • Day 0 - 43%

  • Day 30 - 72%

  • Day 180 - 59%

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Libya
The last report of FMD was in 1994 with 2 type O outbreaks. FMD affected small ruminants with high mortalities in new born lambs - two to four weeks old - in January in the Ejbadia region, in the Eastern part of the country (Figure 3)

 

 

Situation of FMD and control measures between 1992 and 1999 in the Mediterranean Maghreb

 

Before 1999, the last reported outbreaks in North Africa were chronologically as follows: Egypt, in March 1997, Libya in January 1994 and August 1994 in Tunisia. In Algeria, the last reported outbreaks were in December 1992 and in Morocco, in September 1992 (figure 3).

 

Algeria
Vaccination of cattle was continued in 1993 and 1994. When Tunisia and Libya declared the disease, vaccination of susceptible animals was carried out in Wilayates on the border in a 100 km deep zone. These vaccinations in the risk areas were continued annually up to January 1998. In the rest of the country, susceptible animals were not vaccinated since 1994.

 

Morocco
Annual vaccination of cattle was continued up to December 1997. 1 265 000 cattle (51% of the total population) were vaccinated in 1997 with a monovalent type O vaccine. Small ruminants remained unvaccinated. Serological surveys were carried out in cooperation with the WRL Pirbright at regular intervals (1992, 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1997) to verify whether the virus continued to circulate in sheep (Mackay, 1999).
The last serosurvey - carried out in September 1997 - demonstrated that there was no circulation of FMDV in small ruminants, therefore Morocco was then considered as free from the disease and that there was no risk of resurgence of FMDV. The only risk identified was a new introduction of FMDV. Based on these results vaccination of cattle was abandoned in 1998.

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Tunisia
Three outbreaks due to type O occurred in 1994. The first one occurred in May in the Gouvernorat of BÐja in the North, affecting both bovine and small ruminants. The two other occurred in June and August in South (Gouvernorat of Tataouine). FMD had not been reported since August 1994 in Tunisia.
Since the 1989 epidemic, vaccination of susceptible animals is carried out annually. Small ruminants are vaccinated with a monovalent type O vaccine and large ruminants with trivalent (O, A, C types) vaccine. Ten national campaigns of vaccination against FMD were organised with an average vaccination coverage of 65% in small ruminants and 73% in cattle. 296,229 cattle (67%), 3,378,284 small ruminants (51%) and 7,976 camels were vaccinated in 1997.
Two serosurveys with the objective of evaluating the protection conferred by the vaccination campaigns were carried out in Tunisia in 1990 and 1995.
The first investigation, carried out in 1990 with a representative sample of animals having blood samples taken 30 days after vaccination, gave the following results:

 

Species

Titre ³ 200

Titre > 60

Bovine adults

Young bovines

Ovine adults

Young ovines

Goats

82%

67.6%

60.3%

53.8%

38.5%

19%

19.4%

-

-

-

 

The 2nd serosurvey, which took place in 1995 with the collaboration of the WRL, allowed the determination of the following percentages of ovines protected (considering a titre of 100 as protective):

 

  • Day 0 - 43%

  • Day 30 - 72%

  • Day 180 - 59%

 

Libya
The last report of FMD was in 1994 with 2 type O outbreaks. FMD affected small ruminants with high mortalities in new born lambs - two to four weeks old - in January in the Ejbadia region, in the Eastern part of the country (Figure 3)

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1999 Epidemic in the Mediterranean Maghreb

OVERALL SITUATION
Propagation of the epidemic in time

 

FOOT-AND-MOUTH DISEASE IN ALGERIA IN 1999

Incidence of the disease
On the 20 and 21st February 1999, two cases of FMD were suspected in cattle belonging to a butcher in the Governorate of Grand Algiers. These cattle were acquired on the 17th Feb. in El-Harrach transit centre. The market of El-Harrach turned out to be the focal point for dissemination of the disease in Algeria. Cattle from the same lot were purchased by other dealers from other Wilayates in the centre and in the west of the country and cases of FMD in these regions appeared after a lapse of 5-10 days. Between the 23rd and the 26th Feb. all the cattle acquired in the transit centre of El-Harrach on the 17th presented with clinical signs of FMD.
As shown in Figure 5, isolated cases appeared in the east - 50Km from the Tunisian border. The origin of this outbreak is not known as the herd-owner had not introduced new animals for two months.
Other cases were subsequently declared in the Centre-West of the country on the main national road number 2. The most westerly outbreak was reported in the Wilaya of Tlemcen bordering Morocco.
165 farms and 139 communes out of 1 541 were infected by the disease. With the central Wilayates having been most affected. These Wilayates are situated all around the capital Alger and have reported 95 infected farms, all situated one next to another with 801 cases (Figure 5).

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Animal species affected
Butchers' cattle accounted for 90% of the cases; cows of local breeds, some heifers and milking cows accounted for the rest. Only cattle were clinically affected. Most of the outbreaks have occurred on small family farms with 2-3 cattle. No clinical signs were detected in sheep until the last outbreaks where clinical signs were noticed in a few sheep.

 

Characterisation, origin and propagation of the virus
The Algerian authorities believe that the primary outbreak was in SÐtif, but the precise origin of the virus has not been identified. Two markets (Algiers and Boufarik) which took place on the 17th Feb. played an important role in the dissemination of the virus. In parallel, there exists numerous animal movements - both legal and illegal - between the countries of the region. Many millions of Algerian sheep, the most prized in the region, leave the country each year, mostly west to Morocco.
Zebu cattle were found in the Saharan Districts in the south of the country (in the south of the Wilayates of 'El bayadh and BÐchar) and these animals were immediately slaughtered. They did not present with FMD lesions and were not found at the origin of any outbreak but their presence demonstrates that animal movements take place on the southern frontier with Niger and Mali. The Sahara had been considered until now to be an impenetrable natural barrier for animals (except camels) and didn't require particular surveillance.
Information from the WRL indicates that the Algerian strain is very close to a strain isolated in the C¡te d'Ivoire in 1999 (O/CIV/8/99) with <2% in the difference between the sequences and it also has great similarities to 2 strains isolated in Ghana in 1993 (O/Gha/5/93 and O/Gha/9/93) with 9% in the difference between the sequences. These results strongly support the hypothesis that the North African virus originated in West Africa. The disease seems to be endemic in Niger and in Mali. Reports of FMD in Mauritania have also been sent to Pirbright. However the exact route of introduction of the virus from West Africa to the Maghreb is unknown.

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Evolution in time
Out of the 165 outbreaks, 62 occurred in February, 101 in March and 2 in April 1999. The number of outbreaks increased in the second week of the epizootic between the 25th Feb and the 3rd Mar., the rapid implementation of a slaughter policy and ring vaccination followed by a generalised vaccination campaign covering almost all of the livestock population initially controlled and then stopped the disease. From the 4th Mar., the number of cases started to diminish, and only few outbreaks were reported after the 18th Mar. 1999.

 

Control measures
The slaughter of affected animals with the destruction of their carcasses and the slaughter of in-contact animals (bovine and small ruminants) were the main measures taken to control the disease. In the first week of the epizootic, ring vaccination around the outbreaks was operated, then the vaccination campaign was generalised to all of the national herd, including small ruminants along the frontier on the east of the country following the appearance of cases of FMD in sheep in Tunisia.
1 215 960 head of cattle have been vaccinated once and 430 221 revaccinated. Furthermore, 829 350 sheep and 48 561 goats have been vaccinated along the eastern border (Table 12).

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FOOT-AND-MOUTH DISEASE IN MOROCCO IN 1999

 

Incidence of FMD
The first cases of foot-and-mouth disease were declared on the 25/02/99 in the province of Oujda in the west. Two days later (27/02/99), two new outbreaks occurred in cattle sheds belonging to traders located in the centre of the town of Oujda (same location as the first outbreak). The total number of cases detected in the eight outbreaks declared between February 27 and March 14 in Oujda, rose to 14 cattle, entirely belonging to traders whose cattle sheds were located around the municipal slaughter-house in Oujda.

The inspections carried out on the whole of the national territory did not reveal different outbreaks and a lull of approximately two weeks was observed until the appearance of the disease in the provinces of Khouribga and Beni Mellal (Figure 6) on March 31 and April 3, 1999 respectively. The origin of these appearances, approximately 600 km from the primary outbreak, was probably due to conveyance by cattle trucks bringing livestock from the provinces of the east of the country at the time of the festival of Aid Al Adha. The last case dates from the 03/04/1999.

 

The Origin
The situation of FMD in Algeria, the geographical location of the outbreaks detected in Morocco, the nature of the animals affected and the chronology of the appearance of the suspect cases are the elements which would plead in favour of an introduction of Foot-and-Mouth Disease virus from Algerian territory by butchers bullocks probably in an illegal manner.

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Vaccination
Given that cattle were subject to annual vaccination against Foot-and-Mouth Disease type O from 1992 to December 1997, that a blanket of protective immunity already existed in cattle and that the Direction de lÔElevage had an emergency stock (vaccine of serotype O Manisa), immediate vaccination of cattle was launched.
Vaccination of cattle was organised in three steps:

  • First step: immediate vaccination of cattle in Provinces at the border with Algeria (Oujda, Berkane, Figuig, Jerrada, Errachidia et Ouarzazate).
  • Second step: vaccination is extended to the buffer zone in the adjacent provinces (Taza, Taounate, F“s, Al Hoceima, Boulemane et Nador ).
  • Third step: Vaccination is extended to the rest of cattle population all over the country.

Vaccination was completed on 15th of May. 2 700 000 cattle were vaccinated corresponding to 96% of the cattle population (Table 12). An booster campaign for young cattle (30% of the national herd) was launched on the completion of the generalised vaccination campaign.
930 000 small ruminants in North provinces were vaccinated between 28 June and 15 August 1999 as a conservative measure. This number corresponds to 85% of the estimated population of the small ruminants in the Provinces.

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Serological Survey
An initial serosurvey was carried out at the time of the first outbreak on a randomly selected sample of cattle, to estimate the overall level of immunity of the cattle population towards type O virus. The survey showed that a mean of 60 % of cattle had protective titres ( SNT > 1.9 Log ND50). Based on these results, vaccination campaign was launched in priority in the provinces with the lowest level of immunity in their cattle population ( Haouz, Gharb,Sidi Kacem, Tadla and Beni Mellal). The young animals which had never vaccinated before were also given priority for vaccination.
A second serosurvey was then carried out on small ruminants (10 045 sera collected) in provinces where outbreaks had occurred ( 3000 sera), in neighbouring provinces (4000 sera) and in the remainder of the country (3000 sera). Testing was carried in co-operation with Spain using LPBE ELISA, the positive sera being tested by seroneutralisation and by VIAA ( Virus Infection Associated Antigen test). The overall prevalence of positive sera was low, with only 1.2% of sera (117 sera) positive of which 0.24 % (24 sera) being positive in VIAA. The positive sera were also examined for antibodies to the non-structural proteins by the WRL. Almost all sera found positive in VIAA were also found positive with the ELISA to NSP (Mackay, 1999).
As with previous surveys in small ruminants, there was a clear clustering of positive sera within villages, and of positive villages within certain provinces. Almost all seropositive flocks were detected in provinces in which clinical disease had occurred ( 70% of positive sera were found in the Oujda province). A small number of positive sera were also detected in neighbouring regions and in provinces along the border with Algeria. No positive sera were detected in the regions of the country considered to be free of the disease (Blanco E et Al 1999)
Based on these results the Veterinary Services of Morocco drew the following conclusions in respect of the role of small ruminants in the epidemic in Morocco ( Anon 1999)2:

  • despite the movements of sheep which could not be strictly prohibited at the time of the Aid festival, the sero-positiivty was restricted to infected zones,
  • direct and close contacts are needed for the transmission of the virus from infected cattle to small ruminants,
  • the sub-clinical infection of sheep does not seem to be at high risk for cattle. This assumption is based on the absence of spreading of the disease despite important movements of sheep within the country before that the vaccination coverage of cattle population had been completed.


These preliminary conclusions should be further validated. Another serosurvey is foreseen in October 1999 in small ruminants and cattle with the objectives of following the kinetic of antibodies in small ruminant population 7 month after the disease and monitoring the vaccination campaign in cattle population respectively.

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FOOT-AND-MOUTH DISEASE IN TUNISIA IN 1999

 

The First outbreak of FMD in Tunisia was confirmed on March 2 in Grombalia in Nabeul Governorate. The second outbreak occurred in the West on the border with Algeria on 11 March.
The booster vaccination of all bovines and small ruminants whose last vaccination was more than three months previously was initiated at the time of the report of FMD in Algeria and was extended to all the territory.
On April 3, 1999, a total of 193 686 bovines and 1 083 628 small ruminants were vaccinated out of 313 960 bovines and 2 102 000 small ruminants, which corresponds to a rate of vaccination of 62% for bovines and 52% for small ruminants.
According to the Tunisian authorities, the situation developed in a favourable way in Tunisia for the following reasons:

  • speed in the implementation of protective measures and control measures
  • good vaccine cover of bovine, ovine and caprine populations (annual vaccination campaigns since 1989/1990)
  • reinforcement of vaccine protection by the booster vaccination
  • availability of laboratory diagnosis at national level
  • slaughter of almost 500 000 sheep at the time of the Aid El IDHHA on March 27, 1999.
  • Table 15: FMD cases in Tunisia in 1999
  • See Figure 7

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PERSPECTIVES FOR FMD CONTROL IN THE MEDITERRANEAN MAGHREB

 

The existing sheep pox programme
A possible example of what could be done at the regional level for the control of Foot-and-Mouth Disease is represented by the regional sheep pox control programme.
So far, through the FAO/IFAD RADISCON project the four countries of Mediterranean Maghreb have already established a common strategy for the control of sheep pox. The first step in this strategy intends to harmonise and intensify vaccination coverage in order to obtain 80% vaccination coverage of the sheep population. After repeated successful vaccination campaigns organised simultaneously with awareness and surveillance campaigns, immunisation could be progressively dropped and replaced by reinforced surveillance measures. This regional programme, supported by the farming communities, has already given very valuable results and could be twinned with an FMD control program based on the same principles.

 

Foot-and-Mouth Disease Control
The four countries together have 5 million cattle and 55 million small ruminants. Vaccination of the entire population of ruminants is not a realistic option due to cost and logistic considerations, therefore the strategy for control must be based on selective vaccination.
The following proposals come from FAO and are based on the RADISCON experience in the region:
Vaccination of the entire cattle population for three years with a booster after 6 months in primovaccinated animals and revaccination every year.
In the following years, vaccination could be restricted to cattle in the North and Central areas where the bovine population is concentrated and where the disease was observed in 1989 and 1999. The isolated farms in the South (in oasis, and irrigated zones) could be used as sentinels (not vaccinated) and should be monitored continuously. Small ruminant sentinel flocks should also be identified and followed clinically and serologically according to defined protocols.
Vaccination of the small ruminant population should be limited to certain risk areas yet to be defined in each country, for example certain border zones.
The majority of the small ruminant population will remain unvaccinated and special attention and procedures should be prepared for their clinical surveillance in order to be able to detect any suspicion of FMD or other exotic disease. Contingency plans should be prepared accordingly, with details of the measures to be taken in case of suspicions of exotic diseases.
Training of vaccinators involved in the Sheep Pox programme to recognise FMD should be organised and detailed procedures for clinically examining flocks in FMD surveillance should be prepared (record the number of lame animals, examination of feet and mouths etc.). Special surveillance should be organised in Southern Provinces, particularly in Algeria. In high-risk areas, clinical surveillance should be complemented by serology to verify that virus is not circulating silently in sheep.

 

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CONCLUSION

 

The characterisation of the virus strain responsible for 1999 FMD epidemic in the Mediterranean Maghreb demonstrated strong similarities with FMD viruses isolated in West Africa. The exact route of introduction of the virus is unknown, however, the most probable hypothesis is an introduction of infected animals or infected products through smuggling. If the sub-Saharan origin is confirmed and if no appropriate measures are undertaken there is a risk of introduction of FMD or other exotic diseases like Peste des Petits Ruminants or Contagious Bovine Pleuro-Pneumonia.
In contrast with the1989 - 1992 the outbreak of 1999 was rapidly controlled in the three countries and shows, in a certain way, the maturity reached by the veterinary services in these countries. Also, the establishment of the national animal diseases surveillance systems in these countries increased the awareness of the different partners and eased the exchange of information within the countries and between them.
The absence of residual vaccination immunity in the cattle population in Algeria may explain the larger extent of the disease in this country by comparison with its neighbours. However, as soon as good immunisation of cattle was achieved, it appears that the disease had little or no clinically detectable effect on the small ruminants population. This may yet provide evidence that this strain of FMD virus is self limiting in sheep. The decision to vaccinate only cattle may be considered as dangerous in a context where small ruminants represent a large part of the susceptible population. However, it appears now - more than 6 months after the disease started - that spread of the disease in sheep did not continue despite their full susceptibility.
Even if the origin of this specific epidemic is sub-Saharan, it should be kept in mind that the usual origin of the virus in the region is the Middle East. Libya plays a major epidemiological role and its involvement in a regional FMD control programme should be encouraged. The four Mediterranean Maghreb countries, namely Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia belong to the same epidemiological zone. Thanks to the natural barriers constituted by deserts in South (Sahara) and East (Libyan Desert) this zone has enjoyed a favourable sanitary status so far. The strategy for control and prevention of epidemic diseases must be harmonised and exchanges of epidemiological information between the countries should be encouraged.
In Morocco it appears that FMD was introduced for the second time though Oujda province. Particular attention should be given to the surveillance of this area which may be a gate for introduction of FMD or other exotic diseases.
The strong reaction of the Maghreb countries while combating the disease during the present and the previous epizootics show their strong willingness to avoid the disease becoming endemic in the region.
Because of the importance of human movements between the Maghreb and Europe (more than 2.5 million emigrants from the Maghreb are established in Europe and visit their home countries frequently and more than 10 million people visit the Maghreb countries annually, mainly from Europe) and because of the geographical proximity of these two regions, it is not in the interest of the EU that the disease establish itself in the Maghreb. Therefore, apart from these socio-economical impacts, the duty of solidarity between neighbours is also important and it is in the interest of EU to support the Mediterranean Maghreb countries in their combat against FMD.
Awareness campaigns on the risk of FMD should concern countries on both sides of Mediterranean Sea. The National Veterinary Services of France, Italy and Spain - those closest to the Maghreb - together with EuFMD should take initiatives that would lead to better co-operation with the Maghreb countries for the mutual benefit of all western Mediterranean countries. Bilateral exchanges and co-operation to combat FMD have already been established between the countries on both sides of the Mediterranean Sea and a financial contribution from DG I Brussels is also expected for a regional FMD control programme that could be co-ordinated through RADISCON.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank the Veterinary Services of Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia for providing information, which constitutes the basis for this paper.

 

Bibliography

  • Anon. (1999)1 : Report of the thirty-third Session of the European Commission for the Control of foot-and- Mouth Disease, Rome, Italy, 7-9 April 1999.
  • Anon. (1999)2 : La fi“vre Aphteuse au Maroc, bilan d'une Ðpizootie, Direction de l'Elevage- Rabat, Maroc
  • - Ben Jebara K. (1999) : Foot and Mouth Disease Situation in the Maghreb and the Middle East (to be published)
  • Blanco E., Condes D., Senso RF. and Sanchez-Vizca‘no JM. ( 1999) : Foot and Mouth Disease surveillance in Morocco Proceedings of the Session of the Research Group of the Standing Technical Committee of the European Commission for the Control of Foot-and-Mouth Disease, Maisons-Alfort, Paris, France. 29 September to I October 1999. FAO, Rome.
  • Donaldson A.I (1999): Foot-and-mouth disease in western North Africa: an analysis of the risk for Europe Proceedings of the Session of the Research Group of the Standing Technical Committee of the European Commission for the Control of Foot-and-Mouth Disease, Maisons-Alfort, Paris, France. 29 September to I October 1999. FAO, Rome.
  • Mackay D K J (1999). Serological surveillance for FMD in North Africa. Proceedings of the Session of the Research Group of the Standing Technical Committee of the European Commission for the Control of Foot-and-Mouth Disease, Maisons-Alfort, Paris, France. 29 September to I October 1999. FAO, Rome.
  • Lhor Y (1999): L'Episode de Fi“vre Aphteuse de 1999 dans le Maghreb, stratÐgie de lutte et risque pour l'Europe. Rapport de Stage FAO - Ecole Nationale des Services VÐtÐrinaires de Lyon, France

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