What flushes with farm animals

ruminantWhy politics plays an important role in animal diseases

Pathogen: RNA virus
Affects: Goats and sheep, antelopes and gazelles
Symptoms: Diarrhea, discharge from the eyes and mouth, fever
Infection: High. About body fluids, contaminated objects
Death rate: 90 percent
Combat: Live vaccination, isolation and killing
Status: Spread since the 1940s from West Africa to Arabia, Middle East and Central Asia

Until the late 1980s, the pest of small ruminants only existed in a handful of countries in Africa and India. But because no one cared about the control of the disease for decades, its area of ​​spread extends today in a wide strip from the African west coast over the Middle East to the entire Asian region.

"We saw the virus spread in the first half of the century. And now the disease is pretty much all over Asia and much of Africa. It's really unfortunate that we had to get to that point. Now it's getting extreme expensive to eradicate the disease. "

Despite the extreme spread of the disease, only farm animals were affected. There were only isolated cases of wild animals. Then at the beginning of the year there were reports of dead saiga antelopes from Mongolia.

"The fact that the virus has now been introduced into an entire wild animal population is tragic because we could have stopped it much earlier."

As diseases become entrenched in wildlife, control becomes directly more difficult. This is another reason why the FAO wants to prevent further spread. Together with the World Animal Health Organization (OIE), the FAO has called for the global eradication of the plague of small ruminants: delimitation of the affected areas, comprehensive vaccinations, monitoring.

Eradication of the disease planned by 2030

Wild animals know no national borders and can therefore transmit diseases (imago / robertharding)

The disease should be completely destroyed by 2030 - but whether this can be done is questionable.

Richard Kock is a seasoned expert in the fight against animal diseases. The veterinarian from the Royal Veterinary College in London has been involved in the eradication of rinderpest. The wildlife veterinarian diagnosed the last outbreak of this disease in the world in 2001 in Kenya.

While working in a national park, he'd noticed wild buffalos that somehow didn't look quite right. Because the government in Kenya refused to accept the possibility of a new rinderpest outbreak, Richard Kock tested the buffalo without a permit - with a rapid test.

Politics and Animal Disease Control

Politics and diplomacy also play a crucial role in the coordinated eradication of the plague of small ruminants.

The medical resources are good: the vaccine provides lifelong protection and is heat stable. However, there is room for improvement in the monitoring of the disease: Sheep and goats are often kept in ravines and mountains, where they move more or less freely. In such areas it is difficult to keep an eye on the animals and to vaccinate across the board.

Richard Kock is convinced that the extermination will only be successful if the population is intensively involved. The owners know best where their animals are.

"We are currently working on a research project in East Africa, in the land of the Maasai. There we are testing the approach of involving the local shepherds in the vaccination campaigns. That could really speed up the whole process."

National governments often oppose a decentralized approach. The classic extermination campaigns wash international funds into the state coffers, they do not want to do without these funds.

"We have to accept that such diseases are also used by governments to improve their veterinary systems."

Animals don't stick to borders

Cooperation between the countries is also important, because animals do not adhere to borders. For example, if a mountain range extends across national borders, it makes little sense to vaccinate only the goats in one country. This is particularly problematic in the crisis regions in North Africa and the Middle East. In Somalia, Syria and Iraq, people are currently facing other problems than optimizing the global strategy for exterminating an animal disease.

"We want it to happen as soon as possible, but in some regions we will just have to be a little patient. There is still some work to be done in research into the disease; I think that is the priority. Then we can only hope that reason will prevail and that in a few years we will have a more peaceful world situation than today. "

So that in the near future, after rinderpest, a second disease can be removed from the list of animal diseases: the plague of small ruminants.