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FAO workshop prepares countries in Europe for exotic cattle disease

Recent outbreaks in the Balkans, Turkey and the Caucasus clearly show that a cattle disease traditionally found in Africa is establishing itself in Europe. At an FAO-organized meeting starting today in Budapest, experts will focus on strategies to diagnose, control, prevent, and eventually stamp out “lumpy skin disease.”

The three-day event – from 7 to 9 March – brings together specialists from the veterinary services of affected countries and those at immediate risk, along with international experts and representatives of beef and dairy cattle producers.

FAO took an active stance on lumpy skin disease immediately after it was detected in Europe in 2015. The Organization is making region-wide efforts to ensure that decision-makers, animal health professionals, and farmers get acquainted with this new threat – before it hits them hard.

“We consider it a regional epidemic, given the progressive, transboundary spread of lumpy skin disease,” said FAO animal health expert Daniel Beltran-Alcrudo. He emphasized the importance of a “shared, regional approach” involving not only those countries where the disease is already present, but also neighbouring countries as they are considered to be at risk.

The workshop agenda devotes generous time to group discussion and exercises. Topics such as risk management and communication, awareness campaigns, animal movement control, diagnostic tools and vaccination strategies, and stamping out strategies will be discussed with the aid of experts in each of these fields.

“Countries are encouraged to present their situation, exchange ideas and good practices, and ask questions,” said Beltran-Alcrudo.

The Vienna-based joint division of FAO and the International Atomic Energy Agency will present diagnostic tools for detecting virus infections, and tests that allow for differentiation between infected and vaccinated animals, also known as DIVA.

In addition, an advance version of the lumpy skin disease field manual for Europe and Central Asia, in preparation, will be shared with participants for their suggestions and feedback. The manual is expected to become a practical tool for veterinarians, helping them to identify the disease and decide on an immediate response. It includes images and short explanations translated into several languages of the region.

A contagious viral disease of cattle, lumpy skin disease cannot be transmitted to humans. It can, however, spread quickly between animals – either through direct contact or through insects such as flies, mosquitoes and ticks.

The hallmark bumps on the animal’s skin prevent the leather from being sold. Other economic losses stem from a fall-off in milk production, secondary infections of the skin lesions, or culling of the infected animal as a containment measure.

7 March 2017, Budapest, Hungary 

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