Libya has been struck by Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) with over 2,000 sheep and 112 cattle already dead amidst fears . . .[restrict]that the highly contagious virus will spread from the north-west of the country.
So far, according to the UN’s Paris-based World Organisation for Animal Health, since December 24, when FMD was first spotted in Zawia, there have been outbreaks on 12 other farms around Misrata, Zlitan and Homs.
Libyan veterinary authorities are fighting the disease with a programme of wide-spread vaccination rather than taking the more drastic route of slaughtering all livestock. This latter involves the not only the death of those stock actually infected, but also those that have come into the remotest contact with diseased animals.
By the start of this month, the UN body was reporting that more than 44,250 sheep and goats and over 9,100 cattle had been inoculated at farms in and around four towns. It is not clear if there are still other livestock in the area yet to receive the protective vaccine.
Tissues samples sent to Morocco’s National Laboratory, Biopharma in Rabat, were found to be positive on 30 December. The result of different tests on cattle are still awaited from the UK’s Pirbright Laboratory. Pirbright was in the front line of the 2001 British outbreak when over 10 million sheep and cattle were slaughtered at a cost to the taxpayer of more than $16 billion.
The World Organisation for Animal Health lays down strict guidelines for the containment and eradication of FMD. These include an immediate ban on the movement of all animals from farms in a wide circle around the original outbreak. Its latest report on the situation in Libya records that the affected farms have all been quarantined. The UN body also insists on the implementation of stringent disinfectant procedures for both humans and vehicles that visit anywhere near suspect livestock.
FMD is highly contagious because it can spread on the air, on other animals, clothing and metal work. The corpses of infected animals have to be burnt carefully to avoid airborne spreading of the virus.
In 2001, Libyan livestock numbers were given as 4,125,000 sheep, 1,265,000 goats and 220,000 head of cattle.
FMD which causes blisters on both parts of the animal’s body after a severe fever, can often lead to death. It takes between two and 12 days to incubate and for symptoms appear. In exceptional cases it can be contracted by humans but has never been proven to be fatal. The worst recorded symptoms among FMD-infected people are fever, vomiting and mouth blistering.
FMD, once common on every continent, has been combatted with growing success. The number of reported outbreaks worldwide has fallen from over 1,000 in 2001 to just 34 in 2010. At the moment elsewhere in Africa, the disease has broken out in Angola, Namibia, Malawi, South Africa and Mozambique. In Asia it has struck in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, both Koreas, Vietnam and Taiwan. The only country in the Americas currently tackling FMD is Paraguay. [/restrict]