* About 4,660 animals died in suspected FMD cases
* Livestock has no immune protection against new strain
* 6.3 mln buffalo, cattle, 7.5 mln sheep, goats at risk in
March 22 A new strain of foot and mouth disease
(FMD) has hit Egypt and threatens to spread throughout North
Africa and the Middle East, jeopardising food security in the
region, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation
(FAO) said on Thursday.
There have been 40,222 suspected cases of the disease in
Egypt and 4,658 animals, mostly calves, have already died, the
FAO said in a statement citing official estimates.
"Although foot-and-mouth disease has circulated in the
country for some years, this is an entirely new introduction of
a virus strain known as SAT2, and livestock have no immune
protection against it," the Rome-based agency said.
Vaccines are urgently needed as 6.3 million buffalo and
cattle and 7.5 million sheep and goats are at risk in Egypt, the
"The area around the Lower Nile Delta appears to be severely
affected, while other areas in Upper Egypt and the west appear
less so," Juan Lubroth, FAO's Chief Veterinary Officer, said,
calling for strong action to prevent the spread of the disease.
FMD is a highly infectious and sometimes fatal disease that
affects cloven-hoofed animals such as sheep, goats, cattle,
buffalo and pigs. FMD is not a direct threat to humans.
Meat and milk from sick animals are unsafe for consumption,
not because FMD affects humans, but because foodstuffs entering
the food chain should only come from animals that are known to
be healthy, the FAO said.
Egypt has some reserves of its own vaccines, but these do
not protect against the SAT2 strain. The country could need
regional support in mobilising effective ones, the FAO said.
With vaccines sometimes taking up to two weeks to confer
immunity, joint efforts to boost biosecurity measures to limit
the spread of the disease are urgently needed, said the FAO
whose emergency team visited Egypt last week.
Such measures include limiting animal movements and avoiding
contact with animals from other farms; avoiding purchasing
animals in the immediate term since they could have come from
contaminated sources, preferably by burning carcasses.
(Reporting by Svetlana Kovalyova; editing by James Jukwey)