February 2, 2024

FMD is further spreading across Northern Africa

The recent increase in outbreaks of the highly contagious Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) in Northern Africa led the Portuguese authorities today to call on all relevant animal health professionals, from veterinarians to farmers for their cooperation in increasing vigilance and stepping up biosecurity measures.

FMD is endemic in most of the African continent but the recent increase in ongoing outbreaks in North Africa (reported since July 2023 in Libya, Tunisia and Algeria) could heighten the risk level for countries close or connected to the region, including European countries such as Portugal.

The first isolation of the SAT-2 serotype in Algeria last December prompted the authorities to launch a nationwide preventive vaccination campaign, said to have reached over 70% of vaccinated cattle within a few weeks (Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development). This result has facilitated the gradual reopening of livestock markets in late January this year. But the occurrence of SAT-2 in Algeria comes after outbreaks involving this type were reported for the first time in Middle East countries (Iraq and Jordan) and in Türkiye, which suggests that this serotype is expanding its distribution in the region.

Outbreaks in Tunisia and Libya were linked to recent introductions of animals into herds. Movements of cattle (in particular illegal ones across borders) remain a significant risk pathway within and between countries, and they may seasonally intensify, for example during the Ramadan period. In addition, the circulation of new strains (like SAT-2) in naïve herds may exacerbate the spread. This explains the vigilance of veterinary authorities with vaccination in Algeria and with increased precautionary measures in Portugal.

FMD may bean old foe, and most countries have measures in place to prevent its introduction, but it certainly keeps animal health professionals on alert around the globe. These outbreaks close to Western Europe are a timely reminder to be prepared: a good surveillance system and appropriate biosecurity are critical to safeguard animal health and food security.


WOAH (World Organization for Animal Health) Africa:

DGAV [Food and Veterinary Authorities of Portugal]

Radio Algérienne, 29.01.2024, [Foot-and-Mouth Disease: progressive reopening of livestock markets]

Global News

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