Goat plague hits Georgia

By Oscar Rousseau

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food and agriculture organization, Lamb

OIE director general Monique Eloit said the body plans to eliminate the PPR "plague"
OIE director general Monique Eloit said the body plans to eliminate the PPR "plague"
A devastating disease, known colloquially as goat plague, has torn its way through sheep flocks in Georgia sparking international calls to tackle the "lethal" infection.

The European state of Georgia reported its first-ever case of Peste des Petits Ruminants (PPR) – or goat plague – recently. Now, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) have called for 800,000 sheep and goats to be vaccinated as the disease can be “lethal​” upon contact with unprotected livestock.

Outbreaks of Peste des Petits Ruminants have also been discovered in China, Turkey and the Maldives. If livestock come into contact with the disease, it can kill up to 90% of the animals it infects within a matter of days. PPS is also estimated to cause around $2bn in losses each year, according to OIE.

The PPR Eradication Programme Secretariat has been formed to stamp out the disease. It is chaired by investment banker Bouna Diop and includes Felix Njeumi and Jean-Jacques Soula from the FAO and OIE respectively.

‘Critical’

Because existing vaccines are “effective and affordable​” the OIE and the FAO believe it’s feasible to consider a global eradication of the disease. No official timeframe has been set for this, but 15-year regional roadmaps for wiping out the disease are in the making.

PPR: expert opinion

Dr Monique Eloit, OIE director general: “Peste des petits ruminants is a plague that devastates sheep and goats, thus affecting the food security and livelihood of hundreds of millions of rural families in different parts of the world. Based on the global control and eradication strategy endorsed last year at global level, the OIE, together with the FAO is now mapping regional campaigns to eliminate this disease from the remaining affected countries. After rinderpest eradication, PPR can also become a disease of the past by 2030: therefore, countries need to invest in well-resourced national Veterinary Services and effective vaccines complying with the OIE international standards.​”

Geographically, the outbreak of PPR in Georgia is located close to its southern border with Armenia and Azerbaijan. Quarantine and surveillance zones have been established, with control measures intensified to prevent the disease spreading any further.

PPR has spread rapidly throughout Africa, Asia and the Middle East over the past two decades and the regions are home to around 80% of the world’s 2.1 billion small ruminant’s population. “Sheep and goats are critical assets for poor rural households, providing protein, milk, fertiliser, wool and fibre, as well as often representing essential social capital and access to financial credit,​” the OIE said.

This is why the OIE and the FAO are spearheading global action to tackle PPS which is now present in 76 countries.

Related topics: Meat

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