Eastern Europe faces disease risk, warns FAO

By Oscar Rousseau

- Last updated on GMT

FAO: Step up vaccinations or face disease outbreak
FAO: Step up vaccinations or face disease outbreak

Related tags Serbia Beef Livestock

Eastern Europe and the Balkans risk outbreaks of a deadly cattle disease if they fail to step up cow vaccinations, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

The FAO wants broader cattle vaccinations rolled out to keep lumpy skin disease at bay in the region, after it resurfaced in Albania, Greece and Macedonia.

It wants preventative vaccinations introduced in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and northern Serbia, to create a defensive shield that could stop the deadly disease from spreading to countries like Hungary and Romania. This, is turn, could stop the disease travelling on to Austria, Ukraine and other parts of central Europe.

Following mass vaccination of cattle in April​ 2016, lumpy skin disease was successfully contained in south-eastern Europe, but the disease has returned.

Last resort: Culling

Ren Wang, assistant director-general of the FAO’s Agriculture and Consumer Protection Department, warned the outbreak was just “another warning sign that the disease has not been fully contained yet​”. He added it would spread further if containment efforts were not accelerated.

Governments across the Balkans and Eastern Europe have been advised to run vaccination campaigns ahead of bug season, in March, when infection rates are high.

Culling of infected livestock should be explored too, but only as a last resort, the FAO said, recommending vaccination as the first line of defence.

Despite the progress made in combating lumpy skin disease, there are still some grey areas we need to focus on,​” added Wang.

We need to understand better if lumpy skin disease can also be transmitted from one animal to another via infected milk, for example, and if infected animals that do not show clinical signs could still spread the virus.​”

There were more than 200 outbreaks of lumpy skin disease at the height of Europe’s battle with the problem, with nine countries hit by the disease.

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