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In the news: Namibia’s FMD outbreak prompts increased vigilance in U.S.

Progressive Cattle Editor Carrie Veselka Published on 23 October 2020

Namibia announced an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in early October, inducing U.S. beef industry groups to push for tighter security at home.

FMD was detected in the northern Namibian region of Kavango East, according to the Namibian agriculture ministry. As reported by Reuters, the border between Namibia and its northern neighbor Angola is not tightly regulated, with many Namibian farmers grazing their cattle in Angola’s southern province, and vice versa. So far, the spread of the disease is yet to be determined.

Namibia is currently split into a northern and a southern zone. The northern zone, where the most recent outbreak has occurred, is currently not eligible to trade with the U.S. due to its history of problems with FMD. The southern zone has been declared free of FMD without vaccination and is eligible to ship to the U.S.

The two sections are divided by a cordon fence that stretches from the Atlantic coast on the west to Namibia’s border with Botswana. The fence was built in 1954, with the intention to keep wild animals that could be carrying FMD from passing back and forth and potentially spreading the disease to domesticated animals. Skepticism about the effectiveness of a 66-year-old fence in keeping a highly contagious disease contained, along with other FMD containment protocols in a country with a history of problems with FMD, has spurred industry groups, including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) to call for increased monitoring from the USDA on imports to the U.S. and the situation in Namibia.

“FMD is one of those diseases that keeps us up at night, and something that we are doing everything we can to try to keep out of this country,” NCBA Senior Director of International Trade and Market Access Kent Bacus said during an NCBA Beltway Beef podcast. “We are working with our government to make sure we have a plan in place so that we can mitigate any of those risks, if, heaven forbid, we ever have a case here in the U.S.” Bacus said the likelihood of FMD spreading to the U.S. herd via this outbreak is unlikely but that close monitoring is key to making sure the outbreak is contained.

NCBA Vice President of Government Affairs Ethan Lane also said in the podcast that a quick response is also important. “If we see something that doesn’t pass the ‘smell test,’ so to speak, we cannot hesitate to insist that that importation be suspended immediately, and that is going to be our position as we watch this roll out: to ensure those standards are being met, whether it’s Namibia or Brazil or anywhere else that’s on that list.”  end mark

Carrie Veselka
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