US swine and cattle populations vulnerable to FMD
US Department of Agriculture may not be prepared to handle "more than a small outbreak" of FMD as the vaccine stocks are limited, warns the Government Accountability Office in its latest report.
The disease is found in almost two-thirds of the world's livestock but the US hasn’t experienced an outbreak since 1929, reports CNBC. "The United States is vulnerable to FMD transmission, given the large size and mobility of the U.S. livestock sector. An FMD outbreak in the United States could have serious economic impacts, in part because trade partners would likely halt all imports of U.S. livestock and livestock products until the disease is eradicated", says the GAO report issued last week.
Total exports of US swine, cattle and dairy products reached $19 billion in 2017 but this figure could easily drop in case of an outbreak. FMD is endemic in several parts of the world such as Africa, the Middle East, South America, and Asia. The recent trade negotiation process open by president Trump with its Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro for opening the American market to Brazilian beef exporters has attracted criticism from the United States Cattlemen’s Association. The group fears that such a move would compromise the "health of the domestic cattle herd for the sake of increased beef exports, especially from a country marred by scandal."
In 2017, Brazilian meat inspectors have been reported and caught accepting bribes to allow expired meats to be sold and sanitary permits to be falsified.
Last year, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) declared Brazil free of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) with vaccination. The South American country initiated a program which aims to have the full country free of FMD without vaccination by 2023. Until now, only one state in Brazil, Santa Catarina, has this status.
The GAO report shows that there are few vaccine manufacturers in the world that have the capacity to meet US requirements. The North American country is forced to acquire FMD vaccine from other markets since the domestic production is forbidden due to "a statutory prohibition against working with live FMD virus on the US mainland." Also, the virus has nearly two dozen individual strains, which may complicate the intervention in case of an epidemic.
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