Livestock Plague Could Hit Southern Africa

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A viral disease which broke out in Tanzania earlier this year could spread to southern Africa, putting at risk more than 50 million sheep and goats in 15 countries, the UN’s food agency said Nov. 2.

Known as peste des petits ruminants (PPR), or small ruminants’ plague, the disease does not infect humans but is considered as the most killer-disease affecting sheep and goats, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said.

If allowed to spread to the 15-nation Southern African Development Community, it could devastate the livelihoods and food security of millions of small farmers there, the FAO said in a statement after a recent emergency mission to Tanzania.

To prevent its spread, it said Tanzania should start an emergency vaccination around the site where the disease broke out in the northern half of the country and consider additional vaccination in the area bordering Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia.

These countries should immediately step up vigilance, the FAO said.

PPR broke out in Tanzania in early 2010 threatening a local herd of more than 13.5 million goats and 3.5 million sheep.

It occurs in the Middle East, parts of Central and South Asia and has affected western, eastern and central parts of Africa, while southern Africa has been spared so far, FAO said.

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