ROME – A major foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in Egypt is threatening to spread throughout North Africa and the Middle East, according to a report from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.

There are more than 40,000 cases of FMD in Egypt, according to official estimates, and more than 4,600 animals, mostly calves, have died. FMD is common in Egypt, but the current outbreak is especially worrisome because it is a new introduction of a virus strain called SAT2 and livestock have no immunity against it, FAO said.

Vaccines against SAT2 are in short supply in Egypt, and the vaccines in the country’s reserves do not protect against SAT2, FAO said. The agency is urging that biosecurity measures be taken to limit the spread of the disease.

"We are working closely to support the government to bring the outbreak under control. The area around the Lower Nile Delta appears to be severely affected, while other areas in Upper Egypt and the west appear less so," said Juan Lubroth, FAO's chief veterinary officer.

FAO dispatched an emergency to Egypt to assess the situation with veterinary authorities. The agency implemented a national FMD control strategy aimed at limiting the diseases spread by initiating biosecurity measures and using vaccines when available.