New Foot and Mouth Strain in Gaza
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported Wednesday that a new strain of foot and mouth disease (FMD) has reached Gaza.
The new FMD strain, which could spread to Israel, was first detected in Egypt and Lybia in February.
UN officials said sick animals had been detected on April 19 in Rafiah, on the border with Egypt.
The FMD virus is transmitted via the saliva of sick animals, and spreads easily via contaminated hay, stalls, trucks and clothing.
Vaccines against the SAT2 strain of the virus were in short supply, according to FAO officials. An initial supply of 20,000 doses are being shipped to Gaza with another 40,000 to follow.
Meanwhile, officials are seeking to control the spread by curtailing the movement of cattle to and from Gaza.
FAO officials say the transfer of animals from the Nile Delta to the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza have been deemed the highest risk for the spread of FMD into the Middle East and the Gulf region beyond.
FMD is a highly infectious and sometimes fatal disease that affects cloven-hoofed animals such as sheep, goats, cattle, buffalo and pigs. It poses no direct threat to humans, but meat and milk from sick animals are deemed unsafe for consumption.
UN officials say this is not because FMD affects humans, but because foodstuffs entering the food chain should only come from animals that are known to be healthy.