The detection in the Gaza Strip of a new case of a novel strain of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) underscores the importance of maintaining - and intensifying -- international efforts to stop the virus from spreading further in the Middle East and North Africa, FAO said today.
Following outbreaks of the SAT2 strain of the virus in Egypt and Libya in February, fears that it might jump to neighboring areas were confirmed on 19 April when sick animals were detected in Rafah, a town in the Gaza Strip bordering Egypt.
The SAT2 variant is new to the region, meaning that animals do not have any acquired resistance to it.
With vaccines against the SAT2 virus still in short supply, the priority at the moment is to limit animal movements to prevent its further spread, he said. Heightened surveillance of animal populations to quickly detect and respond to new outbreaks is also critical.
Movements of animals from the Nile Delta eastward through the Sinai Peninsula and north into the Gaza Strip have been deemed the highest risk for the spread of the SAT2 FMD virus strain into the wider Middle East region, where livestock are a major component of household food security.
Another SAT2 virus strain was recently reported in cattle in Bahrain, but only at a quarantine centre. This emphasizes the importance of thorough inspection and prevention systems when dealing with imported plants, animals or other biological material.
Following official reports of the FMD SAT2 outbreaks in Egypt, Israel quickly implemented targeted vaccination along its southern borders to create a buffer zone of protection for animal herds most at risk.
Gaza Strip will be receiving an initial lot of 20 000 vaccine doses to protect its valuable cattle. An additional 40 000 doses will be made available as soon as possible for sheep and goats.
Meanwhile, FAO and the FAO-based European Commission for the Control of Foot-and-Mouth Disease (EuFMD) are negotiating with producers and vaccine banks to find sources for vaccines in the event of further spread of foot-and-mouth disease and a worsening of the current situation.
Wednesday May 2, 2012/ FAO.