Even though it is extremely rare for humans to contract foot and mouth disease, many panicky Egyptians have stopped purchasing meat since the virus began to spread through the country, leaving thousands of dead cattle in its wake. After last year’s revolution and subsequent mismanagement of natural resources and political matters, Egyptians are unable to trust government exhortations that they are monitoring the epidemic that has affected cattle and livestock in Alexandria, Cairo, and various other governorates.
The General Authority for Veterinary Services reported that 40,222 cattle have been infected and 4,658 cattle have died since the disease broke out three weeks ago.
Blister in the sun
“Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) is a highly contagious viral vesicular disease of cloven-hoofed animals. Although seldom lethal in adult animals, it causes serious production losses and is a major constraint to international trade in livestock products. Severe mortality may occur in young stock, particularly lambs and piglets,” according to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.
Symptoms of FMD in livestock include blisters and erosions in and around the mouth, hooves, and on teats, excessive salivation and drooling, and lameness. According to FMD Info, the average time between infection and the appearance of symptoms is three to eight days, although it can sometimes take as long as two weeks before symptoms appear.
The National Health Service in the United Kingdom reports that only a few cases of human contraction have been reported and that the symptoms in those cases were like flu, although blisters occasionally occur. The last UK national to catch FMD in 1966 recovered in a matter of days.
The people aren’t buying
Dr. Amr Kandil, head of the Preventive Medicine Department of the Health Ministry, told Egypt Independent that the government “is keen on putting all facts about the current situation in the hands of Parliament.”
Egypt Independent said this statement refers to a meeting of the Shura Council agricultural committee last week, during which the epidemic and its potential impact on the Egyptian economy and national security were evaluated and presented to the public.
But the people aren’t buying. Many stores have closed down and one butcher, Mohamed Abdo, told the paper that he has increased sales of chicken since the FMD outbreak. Prices for chicken have skyrocketed by 20%.
Another woman told the paper they simply can’t trust what the government says.
Farmers suffer the most
Meanwhile livestock farmers are hardest hit by this epidemic and will receive no financial support from the government for their losses. 1,876 animals have died in the Gharbiya governorate and 17,678 have been infected, while 439 deaths and 5,426 have been reported in the Daqahlia governorate, according to Egypt Independent.
Dr. Hatem Farrag, assistant minister of agriculture for veterinary medicine, told Al-Masry Al-Youm that in the past, “farmers were not compensated for foot-and-mouth disease infections; however, the government is currently considering compensation for farmers.”
The government urged farmers to bury their dead livestock instead of dumping them in irrigation canals.
Image credit: Death in the Desert, Shutterstock
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