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Press Release 01/83 C7

FAO WARNS OF THREAT FROM FOOT-AND-MOUTH DISEASE AND CALLS FOR GLOBAL PLAN TO CONTROL EPIDEMICS


Rome, 6 November 2001-- Globalisation of trade favours the globalisation of serious epidemics such as foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned today.

FAO Director-General Dr. Jacques Diouf therefore called upon countries "to develop a global plan to contain and progressively control the disease threats at source in developing countries." Contingency planning for emergencies, strengthening of border controls and of commodity inspections, although essential to combat outbreaks, will not be enough to manage the risks of international spread of FMD, he added.

FMD is highly contagious and can spread extremely rapidly in livestock through movement of infected animals and animal products, contaminated objects (i.e. trucks) and even wind currents.

Dr. Diouf made his remarks in his opening statement to a "Ministerial meeting on the Experiences of FMD" during the FAO Conference. FAO member countries discussed the repercussions of the devastating FMD outbreak recently in Europe and the impact of epidemic animal diseases on agriculture, trade and food security.

"It is possible to drastically reduce the risk of such terrible animal diseases as FMD," Dr. Diouf said. "For animal diseases, however, we need a system similar to the one already developed by FAO for food crops: a Global Information and Early Warning System for transboundary animal diseases which takes account of the official reporting of the Office International des Epizooties (OIE), disease investigations, epidemiological and laboratory studies in the countries to improve international early warning," he said.

Many infectious animal diseases, most importantly FMD, thrive through trade in livestock or livestock products, whether legal or illegal. For example, seven out of eleven primary outbreaks of FMD disease that occurred in Europe between 1991 and 1999 are likely to have been caused by the illegal importation of livestock or livestock products.

The recent outbreak in the UK of the particularly aggressive 'Pan-Asian' strain was most probably caused by feeding pigs with contaminated swill. The virus then spread from the UK to Ireland, France and the Netherlands through livestock trade. In Europe, around 4 million animals were slaughtered in 2001 in order to eradicate the FMD epidemic.

The 'Pan-Asian' strain has spread extensively around the world during the last ten years. It was first detected in South Asia in 1990 and spread then to Malaysia, China, Japan, the Russian Federation and Mongolia. Some of these countries have been free from FMD for many decades. It also moved westwards to the Middle East in 1994 and on through Turkey into Greece and Bulgaria in 1996, where it was stopped. Soon after hitting South Africa in 2000 it spread to the UK.

Another major FMD outbreak occurred recently in North Africa, the first FMD outbreak there for almost a decade. The virus strain was similar to those circulating in West Africa. "This shows that the Sahara desert appears no longer to be the barrier to the movement of livestock and pathogens that it once was," FAO said.

In Latin America, the remarkable progress made in clearing FMD from the Mercosur countries was dramatically reversed in 2000/2001 by the explosion of outbreaks caused by two different viruses in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.

For the Andean region of South America, tropical Africa, the Middle East, South Asia and many parts of East Asia, FMD is a constant problem for livestock farmers. This disease, more than any other, excludes countries in these regions from participation in international trade in livestock products, FAO said.

"With increasing globalization, the potential is there that different FMD types could spread widely from their natural habitats in developing countries, unless effective control measures are put into place at source, where they are endemic," Dr. Diouf said.

"Attacking FMD and other animal diseases in developing countries is in the self-interest of industrialized countries. Supporting developing countries in their fight against transboundary animal diseases could reduce the risk of FMD outbreaks in developed countries," Dr. Diouf said.

In general, eradicating an incursion of FMD in countries that are normally free is based on the strict control of animal movement and the slaughter and disposal of infected animals or animals at risk. This "stamping-out" approach may or may not be supplemented by vaccination. Keeping FMD under control is primarily achieved through systematic vaccination. This is the most realistic option now available to developing countries. It has succeeded in South America and was successfully used to control FMD in Europe.

FAO called upon the industrialized countries to assist developing countries so they can target their research, control transboundary animal diseases and promote safe trade in animals and animal products. Veterinary services in developing countries should be strengthened.

Through its 'Emergency Prevention System for Transboundary Animal and Plant Pests and Diseases' (EMPRES) FAO aims at effectively containing, controlling and progressively eliminating the most serious epidemic livestock diseases through international cooperation involving early warning, rapid reaction, enabling research and coordination.

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Audio-clip

FAO Director-General Dr. Jacques Diouf called upon countries today to develop a global plan to contain and progressively control foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) at source in developing countries. Dr. Diouf was addressing a Ministerial Meeting on FMD held during the FAO conference.

Duration: 1min15sec

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For more information please call Erwin Northoff, Media Relations Officer tel. 0039.06.5705 3105, e-mail: Erwin.Northoff@fao.org.

For additional information please consult websites:
World Foot-and-Mouth Disease Situation (as reported by the OIE Foot and Mouth Disease and Other Epizootics Commission)
http://www.fao.org/ag/aga/events/world_fmd.htm
AGA events page
http://www.fao.org/ag/aga/events_en.htm


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