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Virus threatens 50m livestock in Africa

ROME, Nov 3 – A deadly virus that broke out in Tanzania earlier this year could expand across southern Africa and threaten more than 50 million sheep and goats in 15 countries, the UN\’s food agency warned on Tuesday.

The Small Ruminants Plague virus, or PPR under its French acronym, is "considered as the most destructive viral disease affecting small ruminant flocks," the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organisation said in a statement.

PPR can cause death rates of up to 100 percent in animals but does not affect humans. It can be spread on shared pastures and live animal markets.

The virus already occurs in the Middle East, Asia and central, eastern and western parts of Africa but southern Africa had been relatively spared.

FAO called on Tanzania to initiate an emergency vaccination programme and said Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia should "immediately step up vigilance and engage in pro-active surveillance."

"If the disease is allowed to spread from Tanzania into the whole of the 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) it could potentially devastate the livelihoods and foods security of millions," it said.

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