The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) signed an agreement with the European Commission today to establish a rapid response programme to prevent contagious foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) entering from areas outside Europe and affecting farm animals.
The European Commission provided $5.4 million to the FAO for the project, which will focus on preventing the entry of the virus from the Caucasus region and such countries as Iran, Iraq and Turkey, with the risk of losing billions of dollars in cattle, buffalo, sheep and pig production.
"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 analyze the situation to provide technical support and assist in mobilizing additional emergency resources," Keith Sumption, Secretary of the 33-member FAO European Commission for the Control of FMD (EUFMD), said.
The funds would also enable FAO to improve FMD surveillance and control activities in countries that continue to pose a risk to Europe, mainly by strengthening their veterinary services, and would allow the EUFMD to set up national networks to train people to recognize and react to the disease, he said.
FMD does not harm humans. It is transmitted through contact between live cattle, buffalo, sheep and pigs, or by feeding infected, uncooked meat products to pigs and it can seriously reduce milk and meat production, FAO said. The most recent outbreak in the United Kingdom occurred in 2001 and caused losses totalling more than $15 billion.
Mr. Sumption said that Turkey, where FMD is widespread, has successfully managed to control the disease in the last three years in its territory west of the Bosphorus, supported by FAO and the EC.
"Turkey plans to embark on a 10-year national FMD eradication programme, starting in 2007, which the EUFMD will actively support," he added.
The FMD virus is currently found in 60 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Its most recent, serious trans-boundary spread has been in East Asia, where the virus type Asia-1 made an unprecedented spread through China and recently entered eastern Russia and Mongolia for the first time.