Rio de Janeiro, 5 January 2015 (PANAFTOSA) - January 2015 marks the third year in a row in which the Region of the Americas has had no outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), a highly contagious animal disease that can have a devastating impact on livestock.

In marking the achievement, the Pan American Foot-and-Mouth Disease Center (PANAFTOSA), a specialized technical center of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), noted the importance of the investments and hard work of the two organizations' member countries.

Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is a highly contagious viral disease that primarily affects cloven-hooved livestock and wildlife. Outbreaks can severely disrupt livestock production and trade, causing major economic losses and threatening food security. FMD is not related to hand, foot and mouth disease, a condition seen only in humans, and is not considered a public health problem, as human cases are extremely rare.

North America has been free of FMD since 1954, and the countries of Central America and the Caribbean have never had the disease. South American countries have steadily expanded the amount of territory that is free of foot-and-mouth disease. Currently 83% of South America's territory is free of the disease, 64% with vaccination and 19% without vaccination, according to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). More than 90% of South America's cattle are located in these FMD-free areas.

The continuing absence of foot-and-mouth disease is the result of country efforts in such key areas as implementation of surveillance systems, risk-based serological studies, systematic vaccination using verified-quality vaccines, improvements in information systems, monitoring of animal movements, and innovative border strategies.

These efforts also reflect a steady increase in investments in FMD control in South American countries over time. Currently the countries spend more than $1.3 billion dollars (both public and private) each year on such efforts. More than 7,500 veterinarians are currently involved in FMD control programs.

These investments have been critical not only to controlling FMD but also to making the Region of the Americas self-sufficient in animal protein as well as the world's leading exporter of animal protein. The efforts have also helped increase family income among small, medium, and large livestock producers and have generated new sources of employment throughout the chain of production, in both rural and urban areas, thus contributing to socioeconomic development for the Region's countries.

PANAFTOSA has coordinated the Hemispheric Program for Eradication of Foot-and-mouth Disease (PHEFA) since its creation in 1952, providing technical cooperation for national programs to control and eradicate foot-and-mouth disease. PANAFTOSA's contributions have included the establishment of the Continental Epidemiological Surveillance System (SivCont), the development of a methodology for epidemiological characterization of different regions, support for vaccine production and quality control, supply of diagnostic reagents, and quality assurance for national laboratories. PANAFTOSA has also provided political and strategic coordination among countries and between the public and private sectors (COSALFA, COHEFA, GIEFA and RIMSA).

Key PANAFTOSA partners in this work include national health authorities, organizations of livestock producers, agents of the food production chain, the pharmaceutical industry, academic and research institutions, and other technical and financial cooperation agencies.

PANAFTOSA congratulates its member countries and all those who have made these achievements possible.