The Agricultural and Livestock Service, SAG, launched the foot-and-mouth disease drill in Puerto Varas, Los Lagos Region. Chile has been free from this disease that affects cattle since 1981. The drill, which will take place from June 10 to 14 will bring together SAG’s officials from around the country, as well as public health service specialists from the Southern Cone.
On this occasion, SAG’s National Director, Horacio Bórquez, said that coming to the Los Lagos Region is key for such an exercise, “since it represents the core of the Chilean livestock sector. Making sure that foot-and-mouth disease does not return to the country is essential, and having the equipment and trained professionals is an ongoing duty of the State. That is why we are pleased to be here, in this region where most of the Chilean milk and meat is produced.”
To this effect, the Regional Governor of Los Lagos, Harry Jürgensen, thanked “SAG and its national director for conducting this type of training for such a contagious and negative disease as foot-and-mouth disease. I lived through the times of foot-and-mouth disease. I saw thousands of animals with this disease and the epic struggle of the Agricultural and Livestock Service with huge vaccination equipment and barely any technology, going around the country until they managed to defeat it, which was a very difficult challenge. However, their perseverance allowed us to eradicate foot-and-mouth disease from 1981 up to this day, without any vaccines. That is why we need to keep an eye on the world, because the risk is still there… let’s imagine we didn’t have the qualified personnel; our animals would be completely exposed to this disease, which would be catastrophic for both the livestock and dairy sectors.”
The purpose of SAG’s drill is to assess the strategies, organization and procedures for controlling a potential national health emergency caused by the presence of this disease.
Juan Carlos Domínguez, President of the Chilean Meat Exporters’ Association, mentioned that “Chile’s health status, free from many of the diseases that affect animal production, is a significant strength that has facilitated the growth of our exports. Preserving this health asset is of the utmost importance, and this type of simulation exercise is key to being ready as a country to face the potential entry of a disease that could harm our production.”
For SAG, health emergency drills are an essential mechanism to test the emergency system, and also an effective training tool for all personnel and institutions working directly and indirectly in this type of critical event.
It should be noted that this drill is conducted within the framework of the Permanent Veterinary Committee of the Southern Cone (CVP, in Spanish), and it has the support of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
Foot-and-mouth disease does not affect people, but it is very contagious for cattle, pigs, sheep, goats and other ruminants, with far-reaching economic repercussions due to serious production losses. It is characterized by fever and blister-like ulcers on the tongue, lips, mouth, udders and in between the hooves of the animals.