Animal Diseases Spreading

By George Grow

This is the VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT.

United Nations officials are concerned about diseases spread among animals. Animal diseases were reported recently in the Middle East, Africa and Europe. Some of the diseases are deadly.

The U-N officials give two reasons for animal diseases spreading. One is increased international trade in animals and animal products. Another is increased movement of people and animals from country to country.

Mark Rweyemamu is an expert with the U-N Food and Agriculture Organization. He says no country can claim to be safe from animal diseases. He says veterinary services are important to prevent and treat disease in animals. Recently, Rift Valley fever was reported in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. This is the first time the disease has been reported outside Africa. Rift Valley fever kills both animals and humans. Insects carry the virus that causes the disease.

Rift Valley fever reportedly killed more than thirty people in Yemen last month. In Saudi Arabia, more than thirty other people died from the disease. The Saudi victims lived near the border with Yemen. Doctor Rweyemamu says infected people or animals may have brought the disease to the area from Africa.

Last month, foot-and-mouth disease was reported in South Africa's Kwa Zulu Natal Province. It was the first reported case of the disease there since Nineteen-Fifty-Six. Foot-and-mouth is an infectious disease caused by a virus. Officials say this form of the virus has never before been seen in southern Africa south of the Zambezi River. Officials ordered restrictions in the area. Also, more than seven-hundred farm animals were destroyed.

These measures appear to have successfully contained the spread of foot-and-mouth disease. However, the threat of export restrictions on local agricultural products could lead to economic losses.

Earlier this year, Bulgaria and Italy reported outbreaks of bluetongue, a deadly viral disease of sheep. Bluetongue had never been found in those countries before. In August, Britain confirmed its first outbreak of swine fever since Nineteen-Eighty-Six. In just one month, thirty-five-thousand pigs were killed to control the disease.

This VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT was written by George Grow.