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Press Release Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Foot-and-Mouth Disease Remains a Constant Threat to Europe

Thursday September 1, 10:02 am ET Early Warning and Control Need to be Improved Outside EU -

EC Provides Euro 4.5 Million

WASHINGTON and ROME, Sept. 1 /PRNewswire/ -- The European Commission will step up its fight against foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) by providing euro 4.5 million to the FAO European Commission for the Control of FMD (EUFMD). An agreement between the EC and FAO was signed today.

The objective of the EC project is to prevent the entry of the FMD virus from infected areas outside Europe, with a focus on neighbouring countries such as Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and the Caucasus region.

FMD does not harm humans but it is highly contagious among cattle, buffalo, sheep and pigs and can seriously reduce milk and meat production, FAO said.

The latest FMD outbreak in the United Kingdom occurred in 2001 and caused euro 13 billion of damage. The FMD virus is currently present in 60 countries around the world, in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America.

"The EC funding will enable us to improve FMD surveillance and control activities in countries that continue to pose a risk to Europe, mainly by strengthening their veterinary services," said Keith Sumption, Secretary of the EUFMD.

"The lack of transparency and reliable information on the occurrence and scale of epidemics in some high-risk areas and the lack of reporting to international agencies like FAO and the World Animal Health Organization is still often of major concern," Sumption said.

Rapid response

"In case of an FMD emergency, a rapid response is crucial for the success of any control measures. With the new EC funds, FAO will now be able to send FMD experts to affected countries within 24 hours to analyse the situation to provide technical support and assist in mobilising additional emergency resources," he added.

In addition, the EUFMD will set up a Pan-European training and capacity building network to improve the expertise at national level to recognise and react to FMD.

Sumption said that Turkey, where FMD is widely spread, has successfully managed to control the disease in its territory west of the Bosphorus over the last three years, supported by FAO and the EC. "Turkey plans to embark on a ten-year national FMD eradication programme starting in 2007, which the EUFMD will actively support," he added.

The EUFMD has 33 member countries. Its budget amounted to around euro 2 million in 2004. It is the main regional body specialized in supporting countries to control FMD in Europe.

FMD is transmitted through the contact between live animals or by feeding infected and uncooked meat products to pigs. Typical symptoms are blistering of the tongue and between hooves, leading to high mortality in pigs and young cattle and sheep. FMD is also spread by illegal transport of infected meat products.

Recent outbreaks

The most recent and serious transboundary spread of FMD has been in east Asia where the FMD virus type Asia-1 has made an unprecedented spread through China, recently entering eastern territories of Russia and Mongolia for the first time.

These countries are the latest to be hit by the wave of infection which has spread from west Asia via central Asia to western China in 2003-2004 before involving eastern regions in 2005. Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations