Paraguay declared a state of emergency in a northern province on Wednesday to deal with an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, as neighboring Uruguay and Brazil stepped up border controls to prevent the spread of the disease.
Meat packing plants in the affected region shut down as Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo announced the emergency, which follows an outbreak in September in the same department that led to the destruction of 1,000 head of cattle and US$300 million in losses.
Paraguayan authorities on Tuesday ordered the destruction of 150 cattle found to have the disease at the Amistad ranch, about 30km from the ranch where the first outbreak was detected in the northern department of San Pedro.
In the most recent case, the rancher allegedly tried to conceal the disease.
The head of Paraguay’s Animal Health and Quality Service, Daniel Rojas, blamed the resurgence of the disease on “irregular management” on the part of an animal health commission in San Pedro, which is run by cattle raisers.
Foot-and-mouth is one of the most contagious animal diseases known to scientists. It infects mainly cattle and swine, but also sheep and goats.
The disease can be spread by dust, animal-to-animal contact in herds, through consumption of contaminated animal products, and even by farm implements and vehicles.
Although the disease does not normally kill adult animals, if infected they must be destroyed to keep the illness from spreading.
Meanwhile, authorities in Brazil and Uruguay announced they were reimposing and reinforcing border controls that had been put in place after the September outbreak.
Uruguay said it was banning the entry of animals at risk of contracting the disease, as well as animal products and byproducts that originated in Paraguay.
The agriculture ministry in Montevideo said it also had added personnel to border stations to wash and disinfect vehicles crossing over from Paraguay.
Brazil said it would resume disinfecting vehicles entering the country from Paraguay, and it reactivated a health alert in the border states of Parana and Mato Grosso, as well as Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul.
It also said it would use the military to help out with animal health controls at the border and that it was sending a technical team to Asuncion to examine the processing of Paraguayan meat exported to Brazil.
With 200 million head of cattle, Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of beef, according to the Brazilian Association of the Beef Exporting Industry.
Paraguay, one of the world’s top 10 beef producers, suspended exports in September and had been preparing to resume sales to Russia, Brazil and Venezuela.
As a result of last year’s outbreak, Paraguay’s beef exports last year fell to US$700 million from about US$900 million the previous year.