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Morocco "goat plague" poses regional threat: FAO
ROME (Reuters) - Millions of sheep and goats in Morocco could be killed by a virus which poses a risk to other north African and European countries but not humans, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Tuesday.
Morocco's first ever outbreak of "peste des petits ruminants", also known as PPR or "goat plague", shows the virus has crossed the natural barrier of the Sahara Desert which had previously kept north Africa free of the disease, FAO said.
The Muslim festival of Ramadan could accelerate the spread of the virus which passes from animal to animal and is 80 percent fatal to livestock in acute cases, the Rome-based agency said.
The virus causes fever, sores and lesions, labored breathing and diarrhea in infected animals. It poses no threat to human health.
"The economic impact might not be as great as in the case of rinderpest in cattle, but the social impact would be greater, considering the role played by small ruminants in the social life of the affected communities," said Joseph Domenech, the FAO's chief veterinary officer.
Morocco has an estimated 17 million sheep and 5 million goats which play an important economic role for millions of families, said the FAO, which is working with authorities in north Africa and southern Europe to try to stop the virus spreading.
Restricting animal movements, quarantining affected farms and vaccinating high risk areas are the main ways to combat the spread of the disease, the FAO said.
(Reporting by Robin Pomeroy; editing by Christopher Johnson)
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