ROME (Reuters) – Millions of sheep and goats in Morocco could be killed by a virus, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said Tuesday.
Moroccoâ€™s first ever outbreak of â€œpeste des petits ruminants,â€ also known as PPR or â€œgoat plague,â€ shows the virus has crossed the natural barrier of the Sahara Desert which had previously kept north Africa free of the disease, FAO said.
The spread of the virus could increase during the movement of animals during Ramadan. The virus passes from animal to animal and is 80 % fatal to livestock in acute cases, the Rome-based agency said. The virus causes fever, sores and lesions, labored breathing and diarrhea in infected animals.
â€œThe economic impact might not be as great as in the case of rinderpest in cattle, but the social impact would be greater, considering the role played by small ruminants in the social life of the affected communities,â€ said Joseph Domenech, the FAOâ€™s chief veterinary officer.
Morocco has an estimated 17 million sheep and 5 million goats. Restricting animal movements, quarantining affected farms and vaccinating high risk areas are the main ways to combat the spread of the disease, the FAO said.