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The Caribbean Community is moving to ensure that the dreaded Foot and Mouth and Mad Cow diseases do not impact negatively on the livestock industry and the economies of the Region. To this end the Region's Public Health and Veterinary officers will meet in Guyana on 27 March 2001 to formulate a regional initiative to tackle these potentially devastating diseases.

This was revealed by the CARICOM Secretariat's Assistant Secretary General for Regional Trade and Economic Integration, Mr Byron Blake, in Georgetown on Thursday. Both diseases have so far affected meat and livestock industries in United Kingdom, Asia and Europe. In the case of Foot and Mouth, its impact has further extended to Argentina in South America and the Middle East. These are countries with which Caribbean countries have established trading patters.

In briefing the media Mr Blake said neither of the two diseases had reached the Region and every effort must be made to ensure that the situation does not change. He pointed out that to date a number of countries in the Community had taken preventative steps but stressed that for greater effectiveness, a common and coordinated approach was ideal.

He stressed that Mad Cow Disease can affect both animals and people, and the Community is at risk to infection on account of its established trading patters, both through direct trade with the United Kingdom and other European countries, and possibly through trade with other countries which themselves trade with the UK

Foot and Mouth Disease affects only livestock but is regarded as potentially more damaging to the economies of Caribbean Community countries, since the virus can spread rapidly and can affect a range of livestock including cattle, sheep and swine. Animals affected with the disease must be destroyed expeditiously in order to contain the spread of the disease.

Mr Blake highlighted that the Caribbean is particularly vulnerable in light of the relatively strong tourism industry which brings thousands of visitors to the Region. In this regard, he stressed, direct flights from the UK and Europe will have to be carefully monitored since these flights put Caribbean countries at high risk.

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