FAO urges no use of live rinderpest virus

July 23, 2012 at 1:59 PM
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ROME, July 23 (UPI) -- The United Nations' food unit urged global compliance with a moratorium on using live rinderpest virus to ensure the deadly livestock disease is eradicated.

"While rinderpest has been successfully eradicated, there may be some virus material that would be useful for research or vaccine development," U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization Chief Veterinary Officer Juan Lubroth said in a release Monday.

Countries "must make absolutely sure that this material is kept in just a few high security laboratories to avoid any unacceptable risks," Lubroth said from the agency's headquarters in Rome.

The highly infectious viral disease does not directly affect humans, the United Nations said. However, it takes only a few days for a sick animal to die and whole herds can be eliminated.

The last known outbreak was in Kenya in 2001.

Rinderpest was officially declared eradicated by U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Organization for Animal Health a year ago. The declaration means the virus that causes this destructive livestock disease doesn't circulate in animals and exists only in laboratories.

The U.N. food agency said it was working with the World Organization for Animal Health to destroy potentially dangerous rinderpest virus samples and biological materials currently stored in more than 40 laboratories worldwide.

"Virus samples must be kept safely or otherwise they should be destroyed," Lubroth said. "We must remain vigilant so that rinderpest remains a disease of the past, consigned to history and the textbooks of veterinarians to benefit from the lessons we've learned."

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