At the beginning of May 2012 the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reported on cases of foot-and-mouth disease in the Gaza Strip. The first animals affected by the SAT2 strain of the virus had been identified in the region at the beginning of the year.
Following cases of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in Egypt and Libya in February and March 2012, at the beginning of May cases are now being reported in the Gaza Strip. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has pointed out that international efforts are essential in order to stop the virus from spreading further in the Middle East and North Africa.
Following outbreaks of the SAT2 strain of the virus in Egypt and Libya (refer to an earlier report on Rural 21), fears that the virus would spread to neighbouring 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. 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 emphasises 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.
Measures to control FMD
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.
FAO/OIE (World Organization for Animal Health) Crisis Management Centre for Animal Health (CMC-AH) teams are said to have collected additional samples from affected animals in Libya so that the virus can be better characterised and the most suitable vaccine found or produced, thereby ensuring the maximum efficacy of eventual vaccination campaigns. The team will also lend Libyan veterinary services support in strengthening their efforts to control FMD outbreaks.
FAO has also been involved in a number of additional responses, as well:
Development of a regional response plan in consultation with countries at risk of eastward spread of SAT2 from Egypt and westward spread from Libya.
Facilitating a series of meetings among veterinary officials from the Middle East, North Africa, and southern Europe to promote coordinated action and effective implementation of the response plan.
Working through the FAO/OIE Crisis Management Centre for Animal Health (CMC-AH) and the EuFMD Commission to provide technical support to Egypt in managing its SAT2 epidemic.
Training veterinarians from the region in taking virus samples and diagnostic methods to identify the SAT2 strain of FMD. A supply of ELISA (Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assay) diagnostic kits, which are easy to use, were also supplied to veterinarians working in high risk areas of Egypt and countries to its east, including Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian territories, including the West Bank.