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Apr 27, 2001

Belize not at risk for foot and mouth disease

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Images of livestock being destroyed in England because of the possibility of Foot and Mouth disease have saturated the international press. The disease is highly infectious and causes a fever followed by blisters chiefly in the mouth or on the feet. The Belize Agricultural Health Authority has been flooded with concerned calls from farmers wanting to know if their cattle and sheep are at risk. Dr. Michael Tewes, BAHA’s Managing Director, explained whether or not the disease is a threat to Belize.

Dr. Michael Tewes, Managing Director, BAHA

“Foot and mouth disease is not a new disease. It has been here for a very long time worldwide. In fact at one time the whole world used to be divided into countries that have foot and mouth and countries that don’t. It’s a serious economic disease in terms of losses for the livestock industry and because of economic loss that is experienced in terms of exportation and loss of production.”

“I can safely say that in the region we probably have the safest meat for human consumption. Our cattle in Belize are particularly free of disease. We don’t have a lot of diseases that our neighbouring countries have. We have managed to keep our national herd very clean and we are working very hard to keep it that way and to minimise the possibility of introduction of any disease.”

“We are experiencing at the moment some problems with our neighbours. Mexico for example has placed Belize on a list of countries that are at risk of having the disease. They are not saying we have it, but if they consider us at risk, then the treatment that we receive is the same as if we had the disease. We have sent, through the Minister of Agriculture, a letter protesting that placement of Belize on such a list and we are requiring them to explain why they have taken that position.”

Tewes says he hopes that a meeting with the Ministry of Agriculture and Director of Animal Health in Mexico City will soon be organised. For the past two days BAHA has been consulting with the Regional Organisation for Animal and Plant Health to find a way to get Belize off Mexico’s list of “at risk” countries.

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