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Deadly Virus Threatening Livestock in Morocco

Deadly Virus Threatening Livestock in Morocco, Warns UN Agency

A deadly viral disease is threatening to kill millions of sheep and goats in Morocco, endangering the local economy and neighbouring countries, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned today.

FAO is helping Morocco deal with the outbreak of peste des petits ruminants (PPR), which is a highly contagious disease among domestic goats and sheep and transmitted through close contact.

So far there are 133 known cases of the disease in 29 provinces of the North African country. But FAO fears that trading in livestock will markedly increase with the onset of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan and the celebration of Eid Al-Adha, set for December, causing the outbreak to spiral out of control.

The 17 million sheep and 5 million goat populations in Morocco play an important role in supporting the livelihoods of millions of families.

“These outbreaks can lead to serious economic losses, aggravated by imposed sanitary measures, controls on livestock movement and trade restrictions,” FAO said in a press release.

“In the event that the present scenario evolves to higher mortality, the livelihoods of the affected herders would severely be at risk,” warned FAO Chief Veterinary Officer Joseph Domenech.

Mortality rates in infected animals can reach 80 per cent in acute cases and 100 per cent in “super acute” cases with ruminants dying in the first week.

In its acute form the disease is characterized by high fever, discharges from the eyes and nose, sores in the mouth, lesions of the mucous membranes, laboured breathing and diarrhoea.

This is the first ever occurrence of the disease in Morocco, indicating that PPR has now crossed the natural barrier of the Sahara and poses a risk to North Africa.

At the request of Moroccan authorities, FAO have fielded a team to assist with establishing urgent measures to control and limit the spread of the disease, as well as help local authorities create an emergency preparedness plan.


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