The 13th Meeting of the Upper Mekong Working Group on Foot and Mouth Disease Zoning and Animal Movement Management (UWWG) was held in Mandalay, Myanmar, on 9-10 February, 2017. Participants include officials from national or provincial veterinary authority of the 5 Upper Mekong Sub-Region Member Countries (China, Myanmar, Lao PDR, Viet Nam and Thailand), OIE staff from Regional Representation for Asia and the Pacific (RR-AP) and Sub-Regional Representation for South-East Asia (SRR-SEA), representatives of FAO and donor organisation, observers and researchers.
Dr Ronello Abila, OIE Sub-Regional Representative for South-East Asia, addressed a welcome speech to the participants and thanked Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Department (LBVD) of Myanmar for its hosting this meeting. Dr Abila underlined the socio-economic importance of FMD control and animal movement management in this region, and emphasized the capacity of veterinary service to address the current challenges and progress against the objectives the UMWG and the milestones of the SEACFMD Roadmap 2016-2020. Dr Ye Tun Win, Director General of Myanmar LBVD, acknowledged OIE’s key role in coordinating FMD control in this region and expressed his hope for enhanced multinational cooperation in the future.
Following the opening ceremony, Dr Abila presented the progress against the recommendations from the 11st and 12nd UMWG Meetings, notably the completion of the Upper Mekong Animal Movement Study; successful implementation of FMD vaccination projects in pilot areas in Northern Lao PDR and Central Myanmar; signing of a Joint Statement on Harmonizing Procedures for Livestock Movement Management; identification of possible areas for the establishment of “control zones” in Myanmar-China and Lao PDR–China border areas; conducting a Risk Assessment study on the possible incursion of FMDV into the proposed “border control zones”.
In the following session, participants received updates on the regional and national FMD situation and the key animal movement pathways. One major change of FMD epidemiology was the detection of a new FMD virus strain O/ME-SA/Ind2001d, which originated from South-Asia, in field outbreaks in Lao PDR, Viet Nam, Myanmar and Thailand. Countries were urged to monitor FMD outbreaks more actively and submit more samples to the Regional Reference Laboratories for characterisation, in order to improve our knowledge about the spread of this exotic strain in this region.
In the facilitated workshops, country representatives identified that the insufficient capacity of veterinary service (often due to lack of human resources and funding), lack of public awareness, and the absence of strong, high-level political support are the major constrains in FMD surveillance and implementation of the Joint Statement on Harmonizing Procedures for Livestock Movement in the GMS. Potential solutions to overcome these challenges were also identified, including enhancing the engagement of OIE Delegates in decision-makings during the SEACFMD Sub-Commission Meetings, increasing resource allocation in awareness promoting activities, and exploring more funding sources/opportunities to enhance local veterinary services for better FMD monitoring and control.
Participants were also provided with detailed information on the initiatives of setting up FMD control/livestock trade zones along China-Myanmar and China-Lao PDR borders. A risk assessment study, organised by the OIE and funded by China Ministry of Agriculture, has been launched in September 2016 for the purpose to identify the risk of FMD virus incursion into the proposed border zones and make recommendations on risk mitigation measures. The presentations and discussions identified the key issues for setting up and maintaining the control zones, namely harmonised quarantine and animal movement management procedures, systematic surveillance, veterinary service capacity, communication and public awareness, and resources. Continued bi-/tri-national collaboration, especially technical and financial support from China, and coordination by OIE SEACFMD were considered as pivotal to progress the zoning project.
The second day started with a field trip to a dairy farm in Mandalay. It showcased the benefits of FMD control in significant improved animal production. In addition, through the Myanmar-New Zealand Dairy Excellence Project that started in March 2014, significant improvements have been made in the forage and animal feeds, milk quality and farm management.
In the afternoon, the meeting continued with presentations and workshop discussions on FMD post-vaccination monitoring (PVM) and approaches to improve vaccine field performance. PVM studies have shown that vaccination was able to reduce the incidence of clinical FMD, and meanwhile the short-lived nature of vaccine-induced immunity was underlined. Apart from the quality and antigenic matching of FMD vaccines, key factors identified that impact vaccine field effectiveness include vaccine delivery system, vaccination schedule and coverage, and training of vaccinators. Countries were encouraged to optimise the vaccination regimen and programme on a sound scientific basis and to include the monitoring of vaccination programmes and of population immunity in their surveillance systems.
In the end of the meeting, it was agreed to re-consider the scope and boundaries of the Upper Mekong Zone in relation to the proposed animal movement control zones along Myanmar-China and Lao PDR-China borders. The recommendations adopted during the meeting will be submitted to the 23rd OIE SEACFMD Sub-Commission Meeting in March 2017, for endorsement.