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Experts discuss how to stop livestock skin disease

Transboundary animal diseases might sound remote, but some are standing on doorstep. Lumpy skin disease is one example.

With the aim of stopping further spread of the disease, a small group of experts are meeting here today to review current prevention and control measures in light of the latest scientific evidence.

“The veterinary services of the region couldn’t get the disease under control with existing policy,” said animal production and health officer Andriy Rozstalnyy, who is representing FAO at the event. ‘’Since lumpy skin disease entered Greece in late 2015, and Bulgaria and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in early 2016, the disease has been spreading at an alarming rate. New countries have been affected over the last few weeks, including Serbia, Albania and Montenegro.”

Lumpy skin disease is a viral disease of cattle with, as the name suggests, very obvious symptoms on the animal’s skin. Transmitted by mosquitoes, flies and other insects, the disease spreads more rapidly during the summer months. It can cause disruption in animal production (decreased milk production, damage of hides, sterility in bulls) and may even lead to death of the animal.

Today’s workshop will take stock on the situation, identify where in Central Europe and the Balkans the disease is likely to spread next, and make recommendations for veterinary services in affected and at-risk countries.

“During the meeting,” Rozstalnyy said, “the science behind transmission will be discussed, including all relevant pathways for transmission – virus in meat and milk, virus available for vector-borne or contagious modes of transmission. The scientists need to identify the crucial evidence for different forms of transmission and the critical risk reduction measures. It creates a technically sound basis for policy advice.”

At the current rate of spread, the probability of incursion into still unaffected countries is very high, particularly for bordering countries and trade partners, such as Romania, Hungary and Bosnia and Herzegovina. There is high risk that the disease will remain endemic in the area. It is estimated that about five million cattle are at immediate risk.

Virology and epidemiology experts, risk assessment specialists, FAO technical officers and others from countries across Europe are expected to participate in the workshop.

Belgrade, Serbia, 25 July 2016

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