FAO warns of increased foot-and-mouth threats

FAO warns of increased foot-and-mouth threats

The Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) urged on April 28 heightened international surveillance against foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) following three recent incursions in Japan and South Korea.

The FAO is worried because the rigorous biosecurity measures in place in Japan and South Korea countries were overwhelmed, pointing to a recent, large-scale weight of infection in source areas, very probably in the Far East, said FAO’s Chief Veterinary Officer Juan Lubroth. The disastrous 2001 FMD transcontinental epidemic which spread to South Africa, the United Kingdom and Europe after earlier incursions in Japan and South Korea could recur.

The 2001 FMD outbreak caused eight billion pounds (more than $12 billion) of losses to agriculture, livestock trade and tourism in the UK alone. More than six million British sheep and cattle were estimated to have been slaughtered in order to prevent further spread of the disease.

Earlier this month Japan veterinary authorities confirmed an outbreak of type “O” FMD virus, currently more common in Asian countries where FMD is endemic. The Republic of Korea was hit by the rarer type “A” FMD in January and then suffered type “O” infection in April.

So far Japan has had to slaughter 385 animals – buffaloes, cattle and pigs – in its initial response to the outbreak and the Republic of Korea has destroyed more than 3500 animals, mostly pigs, in responding to its outbreaks.

The routes taken by the virus have not been identified, but experts say it is possible the infection occurred through food waste, with pigs eating infected meat scraps. Understanding how biosecurity breaches occurred is important to prevent similar events elsewhere.

Under the circumstances FAO considered that all countries were at risk and a review of preventive measures and response capacity would be welcome, Lubroth said. Strengthened biosecurity would most likely include a re-examination of possible routes of entry and measures to reinforce controls, heightened awareness of FMD by all parties to assist earlier reporting and more rigorous checks at ports and airports.
Source: FAO – Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations