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Devastating disease threatens millions of sheep and goats in 76 countries

Staff Writer | August 19, 2016
A devastating livestock disease is continuing to extend its global reach and is now present in 76 countries.
Animal viral disease   Georgia recently reported its first-ever case of PPR
Georgia recently reported its first-ever case of Peste des Petits Ruminants (PPR), a viral disease which is capable of severely impacting goat and sheep populations, while a new outbreak has occurred in the Maldives, showing that even island states are vulnerable to the plague.

The outbreak in Georgia, near the borders with Armenia and Azerbaijan marked new territory for the disease, which is particularly lethal upon contact with unprotected animals.

Experts from FAO and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) recommended control measures including vaccination of 800,000 sheep and goats. Quarantine zones have been created and surveillance of animals in adjacent regions intensified.

The outbreaks — coming on the heels of similar episodes in Western Turkey and mainland China — underscore the risks posed by a virus that can kill as many as 90% of the animals it infects within days.

In the past two decades, PPR has spread rapidly, mostly in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, which are home to some 80% of the world’s 2.1 billion small ruminants.

Sheep and goats are critical assets for poor rural households, providing protein, milk, fertilizer, wool and fiber, as well as often representing essential social capital and access to financial credit.

The disease causes more than $2 billion in losses each year. Beyond the lost economic value, sick animals add to the food security and nutritional challenges faced by the more than 300 million vulnerable households who raise sheep and goats in the affected regions.