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Epizootics, a factor limiting livestock production in Asia

The 20th Conference of the Regional Commission for Asia, the Far East and Oceania of the Office International des Epizooties (OIE) was held in New Delhi (India) from 25 to 28 November 1997.

This Conference, to which had been invited the Veterinary Service Heads of all the countries of Asia, the Far East and Oceania, made a full review of the animal health situation in this region. Several animal diseases are still slowing down the production of cattle, pigs and poultry, as well as trade in such products.

  1. Foot and mouth disease remains the most pressing, but also the most difficult, disease to combat in view of the extremely varied economic development of countries in the region. Foot and mouth disease is considered to be one of the most serious diseases for the region’s cattle, depressing production by an average of 25 percent (abortions and lower yields of milk, meat and wool). This disease also affects detrimentally pig production. This has been the case in the Philippines and in Taiwan where the epidemic which raged in the island in 1996 led to losses of several million dollars due to slaughtering campaigns and the closure of export markets.

    The New Delhi Conference warmly welcomed the progress made by a regional control programme covering the seven countries suffering the greatest economic losses as a result of the disease: Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. This control programme, coordinated by the OIE, is carried out with the aid of other international and regional organisations and Member Countries in the region; it is based on improved surveillance and trade control measures, as well as on the mass vaccination of cattle.

    The programme is supervised by an OIE sub-commission, in close liaison with its Regional Representation for Asia and the Pacific in Tokyo which is financed by Japan. It has also received major financial support from Australia, Switzerland and Thailand, each of which has placed a veterinary virologist at the OIE’s disposal.

  2. Rinderpest is still endemic in several countries in the region. The fight to control this disease continues, in particular through vaccination, and forms part of a world-wide programme coordinated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and entitled GREP ("Global Rinderpest Eradication Programme").

The 20th Conference in New Delhi addressed two further subjects of importance to the region:

Application of biotechnology to animal disease surveillance and vaccine control. The new diagnostic techniques (immunoenzyme tests, monoclonal antibodies, genetic analyses, etc.) are now widely used in Asia. They have led to significant progress, especially in the rapid detection of outbreaks of infectious diseases and in the distinction between vaccinated and infected animals. Furthermore, the use of new-generation vaccines (sub-unit or recombinant) offers particularly interesting prospects in the fight against rinderpest, Aujeszky’s disease and poultry diseases.

Interpretation of epidemiological data concerning poultry diseases. Poultry production is a very important source of animal protein for the entire Asian continent. Rising demand in the region closely mirrors growth in the human population: in order to reduce losses associated with poultry diseases, specific epidemiological surveillance systems have been adopted and set up in several countries in the region. They involve establishing an information network comprised of breeders, veterinary practitioners and laboratories which identify, compare and analyse trends and developments in the most serious diseases.

The OIE, the world organisation for animal health, was created in 1924 and has its headquarters in Paris. It brings together 147 countries, Delegates from which form an "International Committee", and is based on the work of four specialised Commissions and five regional Commissions, including that covering Asia, the Far East and Oceania. Its task is to inform and advise the Veterinary Services of its Member Countries in order to contribute to the eradication of the most dangerous animal diseases for animals and humans and to determine the health standards for international trade.

Paris, 28 November 1997

Contact : Maria Zampaglione