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FMD: the OIE accepts the challenge

Foot and mouth disease (FMD) is present in two-thirds of the OIE Member Countries and in these countries this disease causes serious economic losses. Nonetheless, fifty-four countries have met the requirements to be officially recognised by the OIE as FMD free countries without vaccination and one country is officially recognised as FMD free with vaccination. In addition, FMD free zones have been officially recognised in seven other countries, without vaccination in five cases and with vaccination in the other two.

The increasing number of FMD outbreaks in Western Europe, South America and Asia has led many Member Countries to significantly increase the scale of the resources used to combat the disease, notably when it occurs in naïve animal populations. Animal health professionals throughout the world and many other stakeholders and consumers have expressed concern at the technical and political difficulty and cost of maintaining the status of FMD free country or zone, in a world where FMD is still endemic in many regions and where the globalisation of trade in animals and animal products multiplies the risk of spread of the disease.

The OIE has continued to actively support the Veterinary Services of its Member Countries in their efforts to eradicate or control FMD, assimilating the lessons learned from the recent crisis. A recent example is the amendments adopted during the 70th General Session to the chapter on FMD in the International Animal Health Code (the Code). The most important of these are:

  • introduction of the concept of FMD virus infection, aimed at increasing the transparency of FMD notification to the OIE and ensuring greater sanitary security of international trade;
  • recognition of new diagnostic tests capable of differentiating between infected and vaccinated animals, notably when vaccination is used during an emergency in order to prevent the spread of the disease in a country or a zone;
  • reduction from 12 to 6 months for the minimum waiting period before a country that vaccinated animals during an outbreak without subsequently applying stamping out may submit a request to the OIE for the restoration of its FMD infection free status.

These changes to the Code chapter on FMD offer the Veterinary Services a wider choice of strategies applicable at the national level to combat the disease, while at the same time allowing them to adopt alternatives to stamping out without vaccination that are less penalising than in the past regarding the ability to resume international trade.

The OIE has begun to prepare guidelines on harmonised methods of FMD surveillance to assist Member Countries in their eradication or control programmes. These guidelines, in conjunction with the changes to the Code chapter on FMD, should help Member Countries to eradicate FMD more rapidly and ultimately enable more countries to fulfil the necessary conditions to apply for official recognition of the status of FMD free country/zone. These new guidelines will be presented to the OIE Interntional Committee in May 2003.

The OIE will continue to give priority to the development of even more effective FMD control and surveillance strategies in its Member Countries, especially those where the disease is endemic. At the same time, it will encourage the setting up of more effective regional programmes for epidemiological surveillance and monitoring of FMD and well adapted diagnostic laboratories.

Lastly, the OIE will strive to promote international solidarity in the field of FMD control in the poorest countries by seeking to convince the decision-makers and international financial agencies to mobilise additional resources as quickly as possible.

Bernard Vallat

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