FAO, OIE declare war on foot-and-mouth disease

Jun 29, 2012 (CIDRAP News) – The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) have announced a global campaign to control foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), a highly contagious livestock disease that does not threaten humans but can be economically devastating.

The strategy will rely on the strengthening of veterinary services and collaboration and support from many groups, the two agencies said in press releases. The plan was endorsed today by officials from more than 100 countries at the second FAO/OIE Global Conference on Foot-and-Mouth Disease Control in Bangkok, according to an OIE statement.

"Recent FMD outbreaks around the globe demonstrate that animal diseases have no boundaries, can have a devastating impact, and require a global response," Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO regional representative for Asia and the Pacific, said in an FAO release.

FMD is endemic in most of sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, the FAO statement said. Its annual global cost, including production losses and vaccination expense, has been estimated at $5 billion. For poor farmers who depend on just a few animals, FMD can bring hunger and economic ruin, the agencies said.

Officials said the FMD strategy combines two tools developed by the OIE and FAO. The OIE tool, called the Performance of Veterinary Services Pathway (PVS), involves evaluating national veterinary services with the aim of bringing them into compliance with OIE quality standards. Reliable veterinary services ensure the quality and safety of livestock production, thereby protecting food sources, trade, and animal health, the agencies said.

FAO developed the Progressive Control Pathway for Foot-and-Mouth Disease, the PCP-FMD, which guides countries through a series of steps to better manage FMD risks, beginning with active surveillance to determine what types of FMD virus strains are circulating in the country and neighboring areas, officials said. A crucial part of the process is coordination of control efforts with neighboring countries.

Many countries are in the earliest stages of FMD control, the FAO said. The PCP-FMD is designed to bring countries to the point where they apply to the OIE for recognition of their control program and FMD-free status.

The OIE said 66 of its 178 member countries are free of FMD. The goals of the new campaign are to control FMD in most countries and eliminate it in some, improve veterinary services and infrastructure, and enhance prevention and control of other major livestock diseases, the agency said.

The campaign will include developing regional vaccine banks and centers for quality control and improving surveillance systems, laboratory capacity, vaccine quality control, and movement control of animals, the OIE said.

"The successful eradication of rinderpest, a joint effort by scientists, governments, donors, veterinarians and farmers, clearly shows that we can reduce and even eliminate the threat of major diseases," said Juan Lubroth, DVM, PhD, FAO's chief veterinary officer, in the FAO release. Rinderpest, another highly contagious cattle disease, was declared eradicated in May 2011.

However, the FAO-OIE statement does not cite an explicit goal of eradicating FMD, only bringing it under control. Besides rinderpest, only one other disease—smallpox—has been eradicated through human efforts.

FMD can cause high mortality in newborn and young animals, weight loss, reduced milk yields, and lower fertility, the agencies noted. The United Kingdom had a severe FMD outbreak in 2001, with direct and indirect costs estimated at up to $30 billion, and Taiwan lost about $15 billion in a 1997 outbreak.

See also:

Jun 29 OIE press release

Jun 27 FAO press release

May 25, 2011, CIDRAP News story "OIE declares rinderpest eradicated"

CIDRAP FMD overview

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