New strain of foot and mouth detected in Gaza Strip

A new strain of foot and mouth disease has been discovered in the Gaza Strip and threatens to continue its spread after being first detected in Libya and Egypt in February.

The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization announced on Wednesday that sick animals had been detected in Rafah on April 19. Rafah is a town located on the border between Egypt and the coastal Palestinian territory, Reuters reports.

FMD is a very infectious and occasionally deadly disease affecting cloven-hoofed animals, including pigs, buffalo, cattle, goats and sheep. According to an official in Gaza's ministry of agriculture, farmers have received 20,000 vaccination doses to battle the disease.

"The problem surfaced at one farm in Rafah and we isolated the farm and stopped the movement of animals across Gaza," Adel Attalah said, according to Reuters. "We received the 20,000 vaccines a week ago and...I can say that most of the animals were given the vaccine. The situation is not worrying."

Milk and meat from animals infected with FMD are unsafe for consumption.

The movement of animals from the Nile Delta northward into the Gaza Strip and eastward through the Sinai Peninsula are the highest risk for spreading the disease into the Middle East region as a whole.

"If FMD SAT2 reaches deeper into the Middle East it could spread throughout vast areas, threatening the Gulf countries - even southern and eastern Europe, and perhaps beyond," Juan Lubroth, FAO's chief veterinary officer, said, according to Reuters.

The FMD virus transmits from sick animals via saliva and can spread via contaminated clothing, trucks, stalls and hay.