Barbados and other Caribbean islands must remain vigilant if they are to protect their borders from the introduction of any highly contagious animal related disease.
So says Senior Veterinary Officer of the Ministry of Agriculture’s Veterinary Services Department, Dr. Mark Trotman, who was speaking following the hosting of the local leg of a table-top simulation which sought to gauge the response of Barbados and the Caribbean to such threats.
The exercise simulated the introduction of Foot and Mouth Disease into the Caribbean. Foot and mouth disease is considered to be one of the most contagious livestock diseases known, affecting cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs.
It does not affect humans, and the meat and milk from infected animals are safe for consumption. However, it can result in substantial production losses and international trade restrictions.
Dr. Trotman said small island developing states such as Barbados had to be constantly on their guard to protect their local livestock industries from such threats, adding that any highly contagious pathogen could effectively wipe out the sector overnight.
"We are very vulnerable in many ways. Firstly, we don’t have the infrastructure and response capability of developed countries to effectively and rapidly diagnose and respond to these diseases. Secondly, the country is so small that the potential for a single outbreak spreading nationally is high, whereas in bigger countries, it was easier to contain a disease to a small geographical area. That small geographical area in a big
country is the size of Barbados…so the effects are greater and our resources are smaller," he observed.
The Senior Veterinary official explained that his department sought to prevent the introduction and spread of infectious and contagious diseases to the island in various ways
These include a system of licences and permits, the stationing of Veterinary Quarantine Officers at the air and sea ports, as well as officers going out in the field and visiting farms across the island to test for and sample various diseases. The information is collated to ensure Barbados is safe, and to ensure that if perchance a threat arises, that the department rapidly responds.
He stressed that support from the public and various stakeholder agencies was also vital if Barbados was to mitigate such threats and ensure that the country’s livestock remained healthy.