The recognition of Mindanao and Visayas-Palawan-Masbate by OIE as FMD free zones without vaccination were two of the most significant achievements by the National FMD Control and Eradication Project. These gains were furthered with the elimination of clinical cases in Luzon which has no reported outbreak since December of 2005.
The campaign in Luzon, which resulted in the further isolation of the virus to smaller areas which virtually led to the eradication of the disease, is a result of a more aggressive campaign that translated in the form of the Progressive Zoning Approach, through intensified surveillance and movement management. This was achieved, through government intervention and policies crafted in consultation with the stakeholders in the direction of advocacy on compliance of all concerned to existing guidelines. The strength of the approach is heavily reliant on the capacity of national agencies to provide initiatives to local governments and the private sector, in implementing guidelines and transferring ownership of such initiatives to the grass roots level for sustainability.
The first case of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) was first documented in 1902 in meat animals imported from Hong Kong. There are three Serotypes of FMD virus that have been found in the Philippines. Type O1 was first detected in 1952 and is still present now albeit different from Type O that caused the outbreak in 1975 according to a 1994 study made by the World Reference Laboratory for FMD at Pirbright, UK. This Type O had a leniency to affect only pigs. Type A24 was confirmed in the country during the last part of 1975 and was last detected in 1983. Type C3, on the other hand, was first diagnosed in the third quarter of 1976 and was last isolated in 1995.
The period between 1902, when FMD was first documented, up to the present is one of continuous battle against the disease with the disease incidence probably reaching the highest level in 1995 with 1,553 outbreaks affecting a total of 98,604 animals in 22 provinces. It was at the height of this epidemic that the livestock sector estimated their losses at Php 2 billion, prompting the President of the Republic to issue an executive order declaring the island of Luzon as a calamity area, appropriating funds for its control and providing guidelines for similar appropriations at the local government units. Also at this point, the support of AusAID to control and eradicate FMD in the country through FAO came and commenced in 1996 as part of the national plan. The four components of the strategy to control FMD, which were the foundation of the campaign, are: Disease Monitoring and Surveillance, Public Awareness, Animal Movement Management and Vaccination. The country, particularly Luzon is now in the process of withdrawing vaccination.
Progressive zoning approach
The initiative to control FMD in the country is anchored on the approach that uses compartmentalization of the different regions in the country based on their FMD status. The archipelagic nature of the country’s geography plays a very important role in this approach and provides a natural barrier to the spread of the disease from one island to another. The basic idea of compartmentalization is to arrest the disease situation of a given area and protect the gains in this area by upgrading its status from infected to protected, and eventually to free zones while building-up measures to prevent re-infection. The Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Animal Industry (DA-BAI) had been working for a long time in this direction when in 1993, the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture issued Administrative Order No. 8 declaring Mindanao as an FMD Free zone after validating the non-existence of the disease in the area. This also provided a restrictive policy on the movement of susceptible animals going to the island. In 1999, a similar declaration was made for Eastern (Region VI) and Central (VII) Visayas through Department Memorandum No. 7. These local declarations paved the way for the international application of freedom in 2001 for Mindanao and 2002 for Visayas, Palawan and Masbate. In June 2004, Administrative Order No.15 was signed declaring Regions II (Cagayan Valley) in the north, IVB (island provinces of Southern Tagalog) and V (Bicol) as FMD Free zones without vaccination, leaving 13 provinces in 5 regions as affected by FMD.
However, the continued occurrence of the disease in livestock establishments such as weighing stations, auction markets and stockyards in Regions III, IV and the National Capital Region (NCR/Metro Manila), even with the drastic reduction in the number of outbreaks in both commercial and backyard farms, prompted the National FMD Task Force (NFMDTF) to re-evaluate the result of a study conducted in the 3rd quarter of 1993 disproving the idea of slaughterhouses and stockyards as a possible source of infection. In this particular study, naïve pigs were placed for a month in a Manila stockyard, which have been shown to have the highest incidence of FMD in that particular period in 1990 and 1991. These naïve animals never developed lesions of FMD.
In consideration of the recommendations contained in a consultancy report on the epidemiology of outbreaks in slaughterhouses in NCR and nearby provinces, which suggested the possibility of heavy viral contamination of these establishments as a possible cause for immediate development of lesions for stressed and unexposed pigs from the free areas, together with the continually evolving disease pattern of FMD, the NFMDTF shifted the focus to slaughterhouses and other similar establishments as possible sources of infection, with the traders as suspect carriers. NCR, which has the biggest volume of animals slaughtered and considered an end point in the virus circulation, is now, being treated as a possible source.
In 2003, in coordination with the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS formerly National Meat Inspection Commission), Compliance Monitoring Teams (CMT) were created solely to monitor shipments of FMD susceptible animals in slaughterhouses, weighing stations and stockyards in NCR, with the authority to condemn infected animals found on these establishments. These operations were conducted in close coordination with and in full support from the Philippine National Police (PNP) because of the precarious nature of the job as condemned animals are not compensated. CMT operations were further reinforced in 2004 by creating additional teams, expanding its area of operation to nearby provinces. The CMT were able to visit a total of 24 slaughterhouses and 3 stockyards in NCR for 513 times in a span of two years and have condemned 1,014 infected animals in the process. In addition, 168 slaughterhouses and auction markets in 289 cities/municipalities in 9 provinces located in 3 regions bordering NCR were also visited.
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