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FAO mounts comprehensive response to new cattle disease in Europe

Since entering Turkey in 2013, followed by Russia and Greece more recently, a dangerous cattle virus has spread throughout the Balkans and now threatens to move further into Europe. To stop its progress and increase preparedness, FAO is concentrating its efforts and technical capacities on two regional projects aimed at prevention and control of the virus.

In most cases the lumpy skin disease virus is transmitted by insects. It gets its name from the characteristic nodules that appear beneath the skin of infected animals.

It can mean economic losses due to temporary declines in milk production, lower market weights, sterility in bulls, and secondary infections that can even lead to the animals’ death. The skin nodules also reduce the value of hides.

Countries may also fear trade restrictions, should the virus enter their national territory.

“This is the first time in history that this virus has emerged in Europe,” said Andriy Rozstalnyy, FAO animal production and health officer. “So, as step zero, we should collect and analyse data on the spread of the virus and its financial consequences. Only after an assessment of the epidemiological situation can we move further to identify possible ways of handling it.”

A cost-benefit analysis will be used to compare outbreak control options. Next, a field manual will be produced specifically for the Eurasian continent – an important practical output from one of the FAO projects, financed by the Government of Hungary.

Since few veterinarians in Europe have ever encountered lumpy skin disease, step-by-step guidelines are needed to ensure proper surveillance procedures are followed. Later, the manual will be translated into several national languages.

“A series of workshops is already in preparation to spur the development of country-specific awareness strategies,” Rozstalnyy added. These workshops will increase understanding of the disease, an essential step towards bringing any transboundary animal disease under control.

Georgia, which saw its first cases in late 2016, will receive special attention. At the request of national veterinary services, the country will host a mission by FAO experts. The FAO team will carrying out an evaluation of Georgia’s situation and provide training to assist national authorities in coming to grips with the disease.

At a three-day regional workshop in Budapest planned for March, experts from across Europe and Central Asia will review and revise current strategies, update their knowledge of tools and approaches for preventing, monitoring and coping with the disease. Topics to be covered include risk communication and awareness, vaccination plans, and proper laboratory testing methods.

“We are still in time now, before spring – when the awakening mosquitoes, flies and other insect vectors of the lumpy skin disease increases the risk of spreading,” said Rozstalnyy.

10 January 2017, Budapest, Hungary

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