By Safaa Abdoun
CAIRO: Minister of Agriculture Mohamed Reda Ismail said that all financial resources needed to import the necessary vaccinations to combat Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) are available, and the order will be made once results are delivered from the Institute for Animal Health in London.
An outbreak of foot and mouth disease (FMD) among cattle in Egypt has been a concern for the past few weeks, with the Ministry of Agriculture preventing the trade or transportation of cattle between provinces.
According to the latest reports, 19,124 cases are suspected of having the disease and 1,501 had died since the beginning of the outbreak, according to official state portal Egynews.net.
“Egypt is facing a new type of FMD which has been transferred from abroad. We are not currently prepared to combat it,” said Dr. Adel Abdel Azim, professor of epidemic diseases at Cairo University’s faculty of veterinary medicine.
Present in Egypt are FMD types A and O, for which local livestock have been vaccinated; however, the current outbreak is from FMD type SAT2, found in the country for the first time, explained Abdel Azim.
“Not having the necessary vaccine has made the outbreak more massive as livestock are infected directly and indirectly since the virus travels with the wind, as far as 120 kilometers from the infected animal,” he added.
With the currently lagging state of security in the country, Abdel Azim fears that the virus may spread even more. This is due to the smuggling of livestock from the southern and western borders, where FMD type SAT2 is present, and specifically Libya, where there was an outbreak in February.
Farmers are also unwilling to report that their livestock has been infected. “They are not confident that the government will compensate them for their losses and this is all they have,” he said.
In his statement to the People’s Assembly on Sunday, the minister said that Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, head of the ruling military council, assured that all the necessary resources to compensate the farmers are readily available.
A major failure by the Veterinary Services Authority, according to Abdel Azim, is the medical caravans they have employed to go around the governorates to check on livestock.
“The infected livestock must be treated at their home and any way which the virus can be carried must be prevented,” he said, adding that livestock markets must be shut down for the time being.
On the other hand, head of the Veterinarians’ Syndicate said there is an extreme shortage of veterinarians, with nearly 8,000, while there are 10,000 unemployed members of the syndicate.
An independent authority for veterinary services has been formed via a presidential decree in order to deal with the disease, in addition to more than 1,500 veterinarians employed in all veterinary units in governorates around the country.
“Meat and milk are completely safe,” the minister has previously affirmed, adding that FMD poses no risk to humans.
According to the health ministry, humans are infected in case of a contact between infected cattle skin and an open wound.