Agricultura Tropica et Subtropica, Universitas Agriculturae Praga, Vol. 3/2002: 137-141









   Rapidly increasing trade in animals and animal products conduced to increasing number of cases of infections introduction into developing countries.  Negative animal and human health, economic, ecological, social and psychological consequences were relatively often catastrophic and irreparable. Basic causes were represented by not respecting:  characteristics of infections such as complexity of their processes, dynamics, subclinical forms (pathogen-carriers), insidiousness, etc.; pathogens specificity, diversity, variability, ability to reproduce and propagate (horizontally and vertically, i.e. to next generations), transmissibility to more species (including wildlife), ability to attack humans, surviving in the environment, etc. Among other causes belonged: gaps in knowledge of true animal infections situation, deficiencies in diseases reporting, lack of or deficiencies in laboratory and epizootiological investigations of animals and animal products, underestimating infections "import" risks, sanitary attests not confirming pathogen-free-status of exporting commodities or not corresponding with the reality, imperfect health guarantee, missing reclamation systems, weakness of government services (in terms of professional manpower, equipment, laboratory capacities, funds, etc.), gaps in national legislation systems, irresponsible human behaviour, etc. Conscious man-made spreading of dangerous infections, particularly transmissible to man, represents one of international bioterrorism forms.


  Key words: international trade - developing countries - disease import - animal infections - risk assessment - health guarantee - veterinary services - disease consequences - disease spreading.




 The paper represents a follow-up of the analysis of infections "import" frequencies into developing countries, as published in this scientific periodical (4). The analysis of main causes enables more effective targeting of anti-epizootic measures at the most important factors facilitating infections (viral, bacterial, parasitic, etc. transmissible diseases) introduction through international trade. Several etiological agents - pathogens are included in the list of biological weapons. Conscious man-made spreading of very dangerous infections through trade in animal commodities could be understood as indirect unintended support of international bioterrorism. Eradication of introduced and spread diseases is extremely difficult, usually very costly and takes a lot of time. The eradication of the majority of infections is not yet feasible. Protection of developing countries against infections introduction is in comparison with developed countries much more difficult due to insufficient staff, facilities, infrastructure, resources, legislation, etc..


Material and methods


  Basic sources for the analysis were information yearbooks of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations - FAO (7) and of the International Office of Epizootics - OIE (8) containing official data on infections "import" as reported by the member countries authorities. These data were complemented by the OIE Internet pages about new outbreaks and their origin.  As other sources served the documents of the World Trade Organization - WTO "Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures" (3) and of the OIE "International Animal Health Code" (9). Official reports were complemented by literature sources such as history of diseases spreading through trade published by Blancou and Meslin (2), special issue of the OIE Review (1) dealing with animal health risk in connection with trade and by author's publications (4,5,6) as well as by his experience as former United Nations officer responsible for animal health policy.




  Major factors facilitating spread of animal infections through international trade are divided in general causes and causes related to exporting and importing countries and to international organizations.


1. General causes:


   Not respecting:


- diametrical difference between inanimate industrial commodities and animals and animal products as potential carriers of infections pathogens;


- transmissible diseases infinite complexity, dynamics, diversity (every case is different), subclinical forms (incubation, insidious propagation);


- infections pathogens of different types, subtypes and strains, specificity, variability, virulence, resistance, ability to reproduce and propagate horizontally and to next generations with multiplying negative effects;


   Example: Taiwan had been free of FMD (foot-and-mouth disease) over 68 years before 1997. FMD occurred in March 1997 and stormed the whole island that led to tremendous economic impact due to the loss of exportation market... During four months a total of 6,147 farms was infected ! (OIE)


- pathogens transmissibility to more species (incl. man) and ability to survive in animal body (carrier) and in the environment;


- emerging previously unknown diseases and pathogen strains;


- lack of and deficiencies in field and laboratory investigations of animals and animal products (false negative results of diagnostic tests cannot be avoided);


- gaps in knowledge of true animal infections situation due to the fact that enormous number of them (almost one thousand species - about two hundred is transmissible to man) is not notifiable, not reported, not monitored and not controlled, i.e. occurrence of the most infections is unknown;


- weakness of government services (in terms of authority, manpower, equipment, diagnostic laboratory capacities, funds, etc.) being unable to monitor population health situation at field level and to inspect export/import on the spot;


- inability to apply effective preventive and control measures under much more complicated conditions than before;


- inadequate legislation, low discipline in observing laws, regulations, norms, instructions and measures;


- irresponsible human behaviour such as cheating, corruption, concealing, falsification, etc.;


- instable trade partnerships, too many and too distant origin and destination places;


- underestimating risk of infections spreading through trade.


2. Causes related to exporting countries:


- insufficient investigations of animal population and diagnostic methods for discovery of true situation of the infections controlling, not always effectively, only very limited number of them;


- not reporting true situation (ad hoc reports of manifested cases only were far from real occurrence of infections);


- issuing sanitary attests not confirming pathogen-free-status of exporting animals and animal products (i.e. not guaranteeing health) or not corresponding with the reality or false ones;


  Examples: "It has recently been disclosed that a large rendering company in UK  continued and expanded its export of meat and bone meal, which may have been contaminated with BSE,  for 8 years after EU ban in 1988, to 70 countries in the Middle and Far East. (Livestock Production Science 69, 2001, p. 59.). One developed country (known by the best discipline) exported beef not properly tested on BSE (therefore not permitted for local consumption) to a developing country as "humanitarian help" .


- export of non healthy animals and non innocuous animal products to countries with weak government services (taking advantage of developing countries' weakness), often supported by dumping prices, was much easier than to export in other countries;


- lack of accountability of profiting exporters and of persons issuing sanitary attests for export and lack of reclamation system requiring exporters to cover the losses and measures due to disease "export" (as it is normal in cases of defective industrial commodity export);


  Example:  Eradication of Cochliomyia hominivorax, horrible myiasis affecting all mammals, including man, introduced through trade for the first time in history outside of American continent into North Africa cost 80 million US$ (losses not included); exporters contributed nothing ! (FAO)


- difficulties of government veterinary services (due to manpower, material, laboratory capacity and budgetary shortage) to control effectively on the spot the export of animals and animal products as well as to supervise accredited laboratories and veterinarians issuing attests for export ;


- lack or low  reliability and independence of non-government services (e.g., when testing and issuing export attests for animals and animal products of local producers who provide work and income to accredited veterinarians and laboratories);


- controlling only limited number of selected diseases and certifying their "free status" for animals and products to be exported, ignoring other notifiable and all not notifiable transmissible  diseases;


- illegal import and almost uncontrollable re-export.


3. Causes related to importing countries:


- low self-sufficiency in national production of food of animal origin requiring larger imports;


- risk assessment not considering that knowledge of real occurrence in exporting country of almost all infections is limited or not available at all;


- mono-etiological instead of poly-etiological risk assessment based upon theoretical mathematical calculations, i.e. very problematic, without considering all important possible causes of infections "import" (in spite of "favorable risk assessment" were relatively often among imported animals and/or animal products  also carriers of pathogens, some their species, types and strains considered in importing countries as exotic);


- lack of effective national legislation systems concerning country protection against infections introduction through trade;


- decision making officers having not courage to refuse import in spite of: bad past experience, distrust in health attests and guarantees, distrust in professional competence, independence and responsibility of accredited veterinarians and laboratories, lack of true information on infections occurrence and on services of exporting country, fear of local farmers and consumers of risky commodities import, etc.;


- decision making officers concession (event. corruption) succumbing to the pressure exerted by politicians, traders, businessmen or international organizations demanding to accept risky import also of non-pathogen-free commodities, i.e. to minimize protective conditions against infections "import";


- weak government veterinary services unable to cope effectively with import and post-import health/disease control measures (during the nineties in many developing countries due to the "pressure" by World Bank and International Monetary Fund government services were dismantled, i.e. reduced to a minimum, to be hardly able to cope with clerical work only).


4. Causes related to international organizations


  In the middle of the nineties, for the first time in the history, was introduced legal framework for benevolent risky trade officially admitting and even supporting also infections spreading through international trade (3,9). WTO and OIE policy to "facilitate trade" at the expense of animal and human health imposed import conditions limits not sufficient for importing countries protection against introduction of the infections.


  These organizations didn't consider the fact that the main obstacle to animal trade were not preventive measures to protect health of animal and human populations of importing countries but exporting countries diseased animals and their products.


  Above mentioned document of the WTO (3) was agreed by member country governments thanks to concealment of negative catastrophic consequences and to strong lobby of the major rich exporting countries trying to export their overproduction "at any price". This was for them easier and cheaper than to organize demanding animal health programme to can export only healthy animals and pathogen free animal commodities.


  Previous OIE recommendations of minimal health requirements for import protective conditions were converted into binding maximum limits.  OIE trying to "facilitate trade" reduced information system instead to provide  more and better data on infections status needed for import decision (8). Importing countries got less information  than before !


 Benevolent international regulations didn't respect that the trade in animals and their raw products was much more risky than in all other commodities and that negative consequences of infections "import" could be irreparable and lasting for ever.




  Analysis of major causes is indispensable precondition for identifying the most suitable programmes and methods to avoid infections spreading through international trade.


  Too many cases of infections introduction through trade (4) proved that sanitary import conditions, certifications and measures didn't correspond with historically changing situation, requiring much better and much more consistent protection measures than in the past.


  Animal infections introduction risk was underestimated giving priority to instantaneous profit of traders and ignoring potential spread of pathogens with often irreparable consequences. "Import" of infections represented for importing countries the "purchase" of undesirable problems.


  Insufficient education and training in population preventive and control measures at national level were "disarming" government services responsible for population health. Unfortunately, expensive international training of fellows from developing countries in this professional field was too theoretical not respecting practical needs of these countries, first to protect their territory.


  It is obvious that historical experience with inadmissible spreading of the infections through international trade were not considered. Taking adequate lesson from previous periods is the only way how to avoid this kind of propagation and globalization of animal infections.




1. Risk analysis, animal health and trade. 1993., 12(4), 1005-1362.

2. Blancou J, Meslin FX. 19955. International trade and human or animal diseases: a historical review. Proceedings of the World Veterinary Congress, Yokohama, p.4.

3. World Trade organization. 1994. Agreement on application of sanitary and phytosanitary measures. WTO, Geneva

4. Kouba V. 2000. Analysis of diseases spreading through international trade in animals in developing countries. Agricultura Tropica et Subtropica, Prague Agriculture University, Vol. 33, 70-74.

5. Kouba V. 2002. History of diseases spreading through international trade - lesson for the future. World Veterinary Association Bulletin, Vol. 19, No 1, 7 pp.

6. Kouba V. 2002. International bioterrorism and trade in animals and their products. FAO-CENTAUR NEWS, 5 pp. (

7. FAO-OIE-WHO Animal Health Yearbook. 1980-1996. FAO, Rome. 8. World Animal Health. 1991-2000. International Office of Epizootics, Paris.

9. International Animal Health Code. 1992-2002. OIE Paris.