The Pacific Community (SPC) is urging farming communities and travellers to help keep the region free of the animal health threat Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD).
The FMD campaign comes as a recent outbreak in Indonesia raised concerns about how quickly the disease spreads and the biosecurity risks posed to the Pacific. FMD is a severe and highly contagious animal disease that affects cloven foot animals such as cattle, deer, pigs, goats and sheep. It can be transboundary and can occur sporadically in any area currently free of the disease.
The FMD campaign is funded by the European Union through the Safe Agricultural Trade Facilitation through Economic Integration (SAFE Pacific) project. The project is being implemented by SPC’s Land Resources Division across 15 countries including the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu
SPC's Animal Health and Production Advisor Dr. Sripad Sosale said that although FMD has not been detected in the Pacific and poses no threat to human health, it is one of the greatest biosecurity threats to the region, and it is critical to remain vigilant.
“FMD would devastate our region, as it significantly impacts the trade of animals and animal meat and could cripple the livestock industry. There is ongoing work to strengthen biosecurity measures in place to protect against animal health diseases, and the campaign can help reinforce these and build a collective sense of ownership to keep the Pacific FMD-free,” he said.
Regional neighbours Australia and New Zealand have also stepped-up awareness efforts to combat FMD as it spreads across parts of Asia.
Dr. Sosale said the team will be organising awareness materials and banners to be displayed at ports of entries e.g. wharf and airports and distributed across farming communities. The awareness materials include information on detecting FMD, the clinical signs in infected animals and steps to report the disease. The campaign was launched this month in the Solomon Islands.
The awareness material for travellers outlines the simple dos and don’ts to prevent FMD, such as the requirement to truthfully declare all goods and items at airport checkpoints, especially things that could carry unwanted pests or diseases, and not to bring in prohibited items and animal products such as meat. Travellers must declare if they have been in direct contact with animals and livestock and practice good hygiene and thoroughly clean and disinfect all clothing and footwear used on farms or near animals.
FMD poses a big threat to the livestock industry in the Pacific as it can cause serious economic and production loss as they are the most important domestic animals in the Pacific culture. The campaign stresses the overall message that it is essential to keep the Pacific region free from exotic diseases and ensure access to trade and export markets for the overall benefit of the livelihoods of the Pacific communities.
The Pacific Community has been supporting sustainable development in the Pacific, through science, knowledge and innovation since 1947. It is the principal intergovernmental organisation in the region, owned and governed by its 27 member countries and territories. www.spc.int
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