Viruses moving from tropical countries to temperate zones: UN

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United Nations, Oct 8 (UNI) Animal diseases are advancing globally and countries will have to invest more in surveillance and control measures, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said today, citing the viruses that have crossed from tropical to temperate zones.

In a statement, FAO Chief Veterinary Officer Joseph Domenech warned that no country could claim to be a safe haven with respect to animal diseases.

''Transboundary animal diseases that were originally confined to tropical countries are on the rise around the globe. They do not spare temperate zones including Europe, the United States and Australia,'' he added.

The organisation noted that globalisation, the movement of people and goods, tourism, urbanisation and also the climate change were favouring the spread of animal viruses around the planet.

Calling for strong political support and funding for animal health and more adequate veterinary services, Mr Domenech said, ''The increased mobility of viruses and their carriers is a new threat that countries and the international community should take seriously. Early detection of viruses together with surveillance and control measures are needed as effective defence measures.'' Expressing concern about the spread of the non-contagious bluetongue virus, affecting cattle, goats, deer and sheep, the FAO said that first discovered in South Africa, the virus had spread to many countries for reasons that remained unclear.

''We never expected that the bluetongue virus could affect European countries at such high latitudes,'' said FAO Animal Health Officer Stephane de la Rocque.

''The virus is already endemic in Corsica and Sardinia but could also persist in northern European countries,'' he added.

Other examples of human and animal disease agents that were previously mainly found in tropical regions and that had spread internationally include: West Nile Virus, transmitted by mosquitos, carried by birds and sometimes affecting humans too; Leishmaniasis, a parasitic disease that spreads through the bite of infected sand flies; and tick-borne Crimean Congo Haemorrhagic Fever, the FAO added.

''African swine fever has recently reached Georgia and Armenia and poses a threat to neighbouring countries,'' it noted.

Mosquitoes transmitting major human diseases such as yellow fever, dengue and chickunguya have already reached European countries and it may be a cause of concern.

UNI

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