Thursday 12 April 2012
New strain of FMD
A new strain of Foot and Mouth Disease, known as SAT2, has broken out in Egypt and is threatening to spread to other areas of northern Africa and the Middle East.
Already there are more than 40,000 suspected cases of the disease in Egypt and nearly 5,000 animals, mostly calves, have died.
The Egyptian Government is restricting the movement of livestock from the areas most affected, and the scientific community is working around the clock to develop enough vaccine.
Jan Slingenbergh from the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organisation, says finding the right vaccine and stopping the spread is proving very difficult.
"The SAT2 virus which is currently causing most of the disease problem is perhaps only the tip of the iceberg," he said.
"Perhaps there are other viruses circulating that we are not yet aware of, and we think there is only one virus that is causing all of the problems but it could be a composite.
"So we really have to know what's happening and what's going on in epidemiological terms, that's the absolute priority, otherwise it's not possible to come up with a strategic and realistic approach to contain the problem."
Australia exported more than 55,000 head of cattle to Egypt in 2010, and in 2011 exported nearly 2.5 million sheep to the Middle East.
An Australian veterinary consultant thinks it's not a matter of if but when Foot and Mouth Disease comes into Australia.
Ray Batey from the Australian Veterinary Association says if Australia doesn't change the way vets are used, it could be months before anyone realises an outbreak such as FMD has occurred.
He thinks Australia's entire livestock industry would take a decade to recover.
"There are a number of surveillance programs, but these still don't provide adequate access for veterinarians to livestock.
Quite often farmers only draw attention to a disease occurrence if it has a major mortality where there's large numbers of animals which actually die."
Source: Argentine Beef Packers S.A.
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