CHICAGO, Illinois — The sheep and goat plague called peste des petits ruminants (PPR) has far-reaching economic consequences for many farmers who could potentially lose their livestock to the disease. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), however, has reported a drastic decline in PPR cases around the world. It says its vaccination plan against the virus is proving successful.
Human Dependence on Livestock Health
Nearly 1.3 billion worldwide people rely on livestock for food security and livelihoods. Livestock provides a crucial supply of meat and dairy products in developing nations for farmers and their families. Raising livestock also provides economic opportunities when selling the animals or their products. Viral infections leading to the death of farm animals can mean critical food and financial losses for struggling families. In order to sustain livestock survival rates, farmers need access to more veterinary and preventative care. This will reduce the number of people facing hunger and poverty from losing their animals to disease. In response to this issue, the World Bank has invested $1.9 billion in the livestock sector.
What is Peste des petits ruminants?
Peste des petits ruminants (PPR) is a lethal virus that is carried by infected animals through their bodily fluids, including saliva and waste. The virus causes symptoms such as fever, pneumonia, diarrhea and even death. Symptoms of PPR resemble other common livestock diseases, so it can be difficult to diagnose until the animal is severely infected. While PPR most commonly infects goats and sheep, cattle can also contract PPR. These animals are some of the most common livestock for farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, the Arabian peninsula, West Asia and India. While humans do not contract the virus, losing livestock to diseases can have dangerous effects on farmers’ food security.
The Food and Agriculture Organization’s Vaccinations Efforts
In 2015, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) introduced the Global Strategy for the Control and Eradication of PPR. The plan introduces the outline detailing which countries will receive vaccines, a general budget for the timeline and goals for the end of the project. The plan describes three major components of how it plans to eradicate the virus.
- The FAO will implement a large vaccine distribution plan.
- It will increase vet services throughout the countries at risk.
- It will focus on researching how to prevent other diseases threatening ruminants in these areas.
The plan targets vaccine distribution in the countries that currently have Peste des petits ruminants (PPR) outbreaks as well as the countries that the FAO deems at risk for outbreaks. Vaccines are planned for ruminant animals at three months old with two additional vaccines in successive years if the risk of PPR contraction in the area still requires it. The estimated budget for the fifteen-year project is between $7.6 to $9 billion, expending nearly $3 billion in the first five years. This budget factors in the cost for the production of vaccines and the price of distributing them to countries with the highest PPR risk.
Success and Future Outlook for Livestock
The FAO’s plan for controlling Peste des petits ruminants infections aims to eradicate the disease by 2030. These vaccination efforts delivered successful advancement toward this goal by reducing rates of infection across the globe. An FAO study in November 2020 reported a 66% decrease of reported cases worldwide. In 2015, countries had reported more than 3,500 cases. This decreased to around 1,200 cases by 2019.
Out of the 66 countries with reported outbreaks before 2015, 21 countries have not reported any outbreaks in the last two years, including Angola, Jordan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. There were 22 countries that reported more than 100 outbreaks in four years from 2015 and 2019. However, overall fewer cases were reported than at the beginning of the plan.
This massive decrease in Peste des petits ruminants cases point to a healthier future for livestock animals and resource stability for farmers in developing countries. By continuing to increase access to veterinary care, farmers will be better equipped to sustain themselves and support food and economic security worldwide.