AGA IN ACTION
FAO recently issued an alert on Egypt and Libya, both hit by foot-and-mouth disease
Since issuing an emergency alert on 22 March about the spread of foot-and-mouth disease in Egypt and Libya, FAO has been engaging countries throughout the region to provide support in preventing the spread of FMD. According to FAO analysis of formal and informal trade movements, the outbreaks in eastern Libya in the Benghazi area and widespread outbreak reports throughout Egypt are two separate introductions of the SAT2 strain, brought northward via formal and informal trade movements of livestock from the arid Sahel region that spans the African continent just below the Sahara desert.
“The various situations of insecurity that have been brought on by civil unrest compounded by another year of failed rains in much of the Sahel is the driving force in increased migrations as herders search for pasture and markets for their animals,” said Juan Lubroth, the FAO’s chief veterinary officer.
Meat prices have been considerably higher in Libya than in other areas, for example, so herders would tend to move their animals to where they will sell for a higher price. In some cases, populations are simply fleeing conflict, such as we’ve recently seen in Mali, and they bring their life savings with them in the form of their animals.
To date, FAO has been involved in the following initiatives to address FMD:
- Development of a regional emergency response plan (Regional Strategy) with consultation with countries at risk of eastward spread of SAT2 from Egypt, and westward spread from Libya into Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco;
- Implementing this plan through activities of the FAO/OIE’s Crisis Management Centre for Animal Health (CMC-AH) and the EuFMD Commission, with a focus on training for early detection of SAT2 in neighbouring countries and technical support to Egypt to manage the SAT2 epidemic;
- Between 27-29 March, a previously scheduled meeting to review the progress on FMD control in the West Eurasia region was adapted to include urgent discussions among countries that are at risk to the east of Egypt. Movements of animals from the Nile Delta eastward through the Sinai Peninsula and north into the Gaza Strip have been deemed the highest risk for the spread of the SAT2 FMD virus strain into the wider Middle East region. The Gaza Strip shares a narrow border with Egypt, which is seen as a possible risk for introduction of SAT2 beyond Egypt’s borders;
- From 4-5 April, FAO presented the regional emergency response plan for foot-and-mouth disease control at a meeting of the REMESA network of chief veterinary officers and veterinary officials from North Africa and southern European countries. REMESA is the Mediterranean Animal Health Network originally established to combat the spread of avian influenza when it reached the African continent in 2006;
- As part of the decisions made at the REMESA meeting, the FAO/OIE’s Crisis Management Centre for Animal Health (CMC-AH) is arranging for a mission to Libya with the aim of taking additional virus samples so that vaccines can be matched against them for the maximum efficacy of eventual vaccination campaigns;
- The CMC-AH will also decide together with the Libyan veterinary services exactly what additional assistance will be needed to support Libya in controlling foot-and-mouth disease. The emergency team is expected to depart imminently;
- From 10-12 April, FAO/EuFMD trained veterinarians from the region in taking virus samples and diagnostic methods to identify the SAT2 strain of foot-and-mouth disease. A supply of ELISA diagnostic kits, which are easy to use, were also supplied to veterinarians for use in the areas at highest risk in Egypt and countries to its east, including Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian territories, including the West Bank;
- FAO and EuFMD is negotiating to find sources for vaccines in the event of further spread of foot-and-mouth disease and a worsening of the situation.
Independent of the FAO’s activity, Israel has implemented targeted vaccination along its southern borders, to create a buffer zone of protection for the animal herds most at risk. Israel is supporting the Gaza Strip by making 20 000 vaccine doses available immediately from its own supplies, to cover valuable cattle. A further 40 000 doses will be made available for the small ruminant population (mostly sheep and goats).
Israel is arranging to bring in additional doses to revaccinate when and where it will be most helpful, either within the country or by sharing vaccines with neighbours.
Foot-and-mouth disease affects all cloven-hoofed animals, including sheep, goats, cattle, buffalo and pigs. It causes serious production losses and can be lethal, particularly to younger animals. Meat and milk from sick animals are unsafe for consumption, not because FMD affects humans, but because foodstuffs entering the food chain should only come from animals that are known to be healthy.