Brazil Scrambles to Find Out What Made Its Cattle Sick

Brazil’s Minister of Agriculture, Livestock, and Supply, Roberto Rodrigues, said that the identification of the causes of the outbreak of hoof and mouth disease affecting cattle in the municipality of Eldorado, Mato Grosso do Sul, must be based on technical procedures.

According to the Minister, what matters is not discovering who is to blame but what caused the disease to appear. "Why did the outbreak arise? Were the cattle vaccinated? Was the vaccine handled properly? If so, what interfered with the process?

"In short, these technical questions must be clearly answered in order for there to be clarity as well about the additional steps to be taken by the Brazilian government, state governments, and the private sector," Rodrigues remarked. But he added that, if errors are uncovered, those responsible will be punished.

With regard to the partial or total embargo of imported Brazilian meat by the 30 countries (the 25 members of the European Union, South Africa, Israel, Russia, Argentina, and Chile) that have officially notified the Brazilian government, Rodrigues said that the idea is to expedite proceedings so that the embargoes are lifted as soon as possible.

Rodrigues reiterated that hoof and mouth disease poses no threat to human health. "It is a disease that affects animals, and, therefore, the drama it causes is economic in nature, rather than a health problem for the population," he said.

According to the Minister, the countries imposed the embargo, because "they are afraid that importing infected meat will spread hoof and mouth disease to these other countries." "That is the reason for the embargo, not for reasons of public health, but for reasons of animal health," he insisted.

The outbreak of hoof and mouth disease in Mato Grosso do Sul, which was declared rid of the disease in 2001, was confirmed by the National Agricultural Laboratory early this week.

Minister Rodrigues said that the fact that a specific country or region has been declared rid of a disease does not mean that new cases cannot appear.

"It happens. England had hoof and mouth disease. Mad cow disease arose in Europe, the United States, and Canada, but not here. Bird flu appeared in Asia and hasn’t appeared here yet. So just because a country is rid of a disease does not eliminate the possibility of its appearance."

According to the Minister, every step is being taken to contain the advance of hoof and mouth disease. The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Supply requested the economic area of the government to make US$ 35 million available for animal protection.

Agência Brasil

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