8 May 2009, Rome – International experts on Foot-and-Mouth disease (FMD) have agreed on a plan to control the infection in Western Eurasia and stop it spreading west to Europe and North Africa, following a serious epidemic in several Middle Eastern countries.
The FAO-designed regional road map was approved by the 38th session of the FAO European Commission on Foot-and-Mouth Disease in Rome. It is a far-reaching strategy designed to put an end to the devastating disease in 14 West Asian and Middle East countries most directly affected.
“We have agreed on a plan that links the different authorities and agencies involved in controlling this disease, the aim being to free this group of countries of FMD by 2020,” said Keith Sumption, Secretary of the FAO-based EuFMD Commission.
In the first two months of 2009 more than 130 cases of type A foot and mouth disease outbreaks were recorded in central and southern Iraq and cases of the same strain were also discovered in Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon and as far afield as Libya, FAO said.
There is concern the disease could spread to neighbouring FMD-free zones in the Mediterranean area. Foot and mouth is a highly contagious disease affecting cloven-hoofed animals, including domestic animals such as cattle, sheep and pigs and although it is rarely transmitted to humans an outbreak can increase the price of protein for poor people and wreak havoc on farmers’ incomes.
Type A is particularly dangerous because it is difficult to keep emergency stocks of suitable vaccines as the strain evolves and mutates rapidly. “Type A FMD is already considered endemic in Turkey, Iran and Pakistan,” said Sumption. “The fact it is now showing up elsewhere indicates that it is increasing in these countries as well as being on the move in the region, even making its way as far as Libya.”
Several agencies and donors, including FAO, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the European Commission (EC) and the Asian Development Bank support programmes in Eastern Europe, West and Central Asia and the Middle East aimed at controlling FMD.
In addition, most governments in this region invest heavily in FMD control programmes, and receive technical assistance from FAO. The roadmap will help to improve early warning, prevention and outbreak control measures, as well as boost the presence and accessibility of European expertise and technical know-how.
It will be carried out under the umbrella of the OIE/FAO Global Framework for the Progressive Control of Trans-boundary Animal Diseases (GF-TADS).
In Iraq, where conflict has devastated veterinary services, FAO is implementing an $8.8 million programme to restore animal health services and a separate $2.4 million programme to strengthen the capacity of the Iraqi veterinary services for the control of trans-boundary animal diseases.
It has a similar $5 million programme in Pakistan to control contagious animal diseases in Central Asia. In the Trans-Caucasus, Iran and Syria FAO is implementing support to FMD control under an €8 million agreement with the EC to implement EuFMD Commission actions.
Meat imports into many countries of the Middle and Near East are expanding due to growing demand from large sections of the population, increasing the probability of trans-boundary infection. Decisive investments in surveillance, detection and control of this dangerous disease are therefore regarded generally as particularly well justified.
The FAO European Commission on Foot and Mouth Disease met in Rome from 28-30 April, 2009.