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Consultation with Animal Health Services in the Middle East: monitoring of bovine spongiform encephalopathy

The 4th Conference of the Regional Commission of the Office International des Epizooties(1) for the Middle East was held in Amman (Jordan) from 23 to 26 September 1997.

This conference, attended by the Heads of Veterinary Services in the region, presented a full report on the health situation, which is sometimes jeopardised by the problems affecting the economic and political stability of certain countries in the region.

The main diseases affecting animals and representing a barrier to international trade with the Middle East are as follows:

Foot and mouth disease, the type 0 virus that was in circulation in several countries in the region during the first quarter of 1997: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Kuwait, the autonomous Palestinian territories and Turkey. In the United Arab Emirates and Iran the type A virus was also isolated.

Rinderpest was reported in Saudi Arabia.

Peste des petits ruminants was reported in Saudi Arabia, the Sultanate of Oman and the autonomous Palestinian territories.

Sheep pox is found in most of the countries in the region, as are brucellosis, rabies (in domestic and wild animals) and echinococcosis/hydatidosis.

Conversely, certain diseases now appear to be well under control, in particular contagious bovine peripneumonia (reported only in Qatar), or have disappeared, such as Rift Valley fever, bluetongue, lumpy skin disease and African horse sickness.

Enzootic bovine leukosis was reported for the first time in Egypt in June 1997 on an experimental farm.

Newcastle disease was reported in poultry in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Israel, Jordan and Turkey.

In addition to the severe financial losses caused by some of these diseases, they represent a constant threat to other regions, especially the countries of southern Europe.

The authorities responsible for animal health in the region have also been worried for several years about how to prevent animals or animal products contaminated by bovine spongiform encephalopathy from entering their countries. This has already occurred in the Sultanate of Oman, where in 1989, two cattle imported from the United Kingdom died from the disease. To avoid a recurrence of such incidents, the Veterinary Services have gathered as much information as possible from experts of the Office International des Epizooties and the World Health Organization present in Amman, and a recommendation was made to all the countries concerned to reinforce their monitoring systems: increased import controls, diagnostic research in the field or in the laboratory, information made available to professionals, etc.

Special attention was also paid to horse diseases as horse breeding is very important in the Middle East. A recommendation was made to all countries in the region to step up their monitoring and control of such diseases, in particular by using an 'international horse passport' established in line with the model approved by the OIE. This passport should accompany all competition horses when they travel around the world.

Paris, 26 September 1997

(1) OIE, the World organisation for animal health, was created in 1924 and has its headquarters in Paris. It brings together 146 countries and supports five Regional Commissions, one of which serves the Middle East. Its purpose is to inform and advise national veterinary services on the best ways to protect public health and to contribute to the control or eradication of the most dangerous animal diseases.

Contact : Maria Zampaglione