Around one million US dollars of equipment and vaccines are urgently needed to help stem outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in North Korea, where farm animals are crucial to food security, the United Nations warned.
Such efforts need to be followed by a more prolonged and concerted effort to modernize veterinary services in the country, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, said in a news release following a joint mission it made with the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) mission at the Government's request earlier this month.
FMD does not pose a direct health threat to humans, but affected animals become too weak to be used to plough the soil or reap harvests, suffer significant weight loss, and produce less milk.
Many animals are dying from the highly contagious disease, which affects cattle, buffaloes, sheep, goats, swine and other cloven-hoofed animals and spreads through body fluids that can contaminate clothing, crates, truck beds and hay.
The mission found that North Korea’s capacity to detect and contain FMD needs significant strengthening, in particular in bio-security measures and improving laboratory infrastructure and capacity.
Outbreaks have been reported in eight of the 13 provinces in North Korea, which has a livestock population of about 577,000 cattle, 2.2 million pigs and 3.5 million goats.
To bring the situation under control, the mission recommended thorough surveillance to locate and map disease clusters; protecting unaffected farms through movement controls and bio-security measures; adequate sampling to correctly identify the virus strain or strains involved; and strategic use of the appropriate vaccines to contain and isolate disease clusters.
The FAO-OIE mission visited several collective farms, the national veterinary laboratory and various animal health field stations, providing guidance on taking and handling FMD samples.
Only by accurately typing the virus or viruses involved in the outbreaks will it be possible to identify the most effective vaccine to use against it, FAO said.