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Health and Consumer Protection

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Brussels, 30 March 2001

FMD: Zoo animals to be vaccinated under certain conditions

The European Commission invited veterinary experts and experts on zoo-animals to discuss the options to protect rare and endangered species in zoos, including the possibility of vaccination in cases where there is a serious risk of contracting foot and mouth disease (FMD). There was consensus on the imperative needs to apply any possibly disease prevention measures irrespective of the use of vaccines in areas at risk. Clearly, therefore, Member States where there have been outbreaks of FMD should have in place contingency plans to protect zoos including resorting to vaccination if such a risk was identified. Other Member States at lower risk, should maintain a high level of vigilance in relation to their zoo animals. In the event that a Member State considers necessary to vaccinate zoo animals, the Commission will take the circumstances into consideration and defend these actions in the relevant international institutions, especially the OIE and in relation to any trade restrictions imposed by third countries on EC exports. The experts considered, with the appropriate safeguards, that zoo animals could be vaccinated without jeopardising the animal health status of a country where such animals are kept under appropriate controlled conditions.

A meeting of experts took place today in Brussels to consider how certain rare and endangered species in zoos could be protected if an outbreak of foot and mouth disease would create an emergency situation. The participants agreed that all possibly measures, should be taken to avoid introduction of disease and subsequent necessity of killing of endangered susceptible species for disease reasons. In principle, none of the experts was against vaccination of endangered species in certain circumstances. But they clearly underlined that certain technical and legal uncertainties related to the vaccination of endangered species call for a cautious approach to vaccination of these animals.

The current risk of introduction of FMD into zoos and animal parks should not be overestimated. It is however significantly higher in those regions where FMD is present in livestock. Therefore all disease prevention measures should be strictly applied irrespective of the use of vaccines in those premises.

Internationally accepted animal health standards for trade set by the OIE do not specifically cater for such a particular situation. All experts underlined therefore that the use of vaccine in an animal park or zoo would affect the FMD status of an area/country and trade partners might not accept exports of live animals and non-treated products from that area or country where vaccination against FMD has taken place.

The Commission has written to the OIE to request an urgent review of the animal health code to take into account the very particular situation concerning the use of vaccines in zoos or animal parks. Such a requested change of the rules has, however, to be agreed according to the rules and procedures of the OIE. A preliminary meeting where this subject will be discussed is scheduled in the near future.

The matter will be discussed again in the meeting of the Standing Veterinary Committee next Tuesday

Released on 02/04/2001


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