(A cow with symptoms of foot and mouth disease is contained in a field. Argentine health officials announced that they had discovered a foot-and-mouth outbreak in northern Corrientes province, along the border with Paraguay. Source: AFP)Argentina has discovered a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in its northern Corrientes province in Argentina , prompting neighboring South American countries to tighten border controls.
Jorge Amaya, head of the Argentine National Service for Food Safety and Quality, confirmed Wednesday that they had found 70 animals with foot-and-mouth disease in the town of San Luis del Palmar, Corrientes, some 960 km northeast of Buenos Aires.
Since the outbreak was detected on Saturday, Argentine authorities have cordoned off a 20-km area and ordered the slaughter of more than 3,000 animals in Corrientes, which borders Uruguay and Brazil.
Amaya said Argentina had officially reported the outbreak to the World Organization for Animal Health and health officials of the Common Market of the South (Mercosur), which groups Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, with Chile and Bolivia as associate states.
Argentina shares borders with all the other Mercosur members, with Chile to its west, Bolivia and Paraguay to the north and Uruguay and Brazil to the northeast.
The governments of Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay immediately strengthened their border controls on Wednesday after Argentina said it had detected the foot-and-mouth outbreak.
Uruguayan Agriculture Minister Jose Mujica told local media that the country had set up animal hygiene barriers on its borders with Brazil and Argentina to halt the possible infection of Uruguayan livestock.
The measures include sterilization at the frontier and tightened veterinary inspections at customs posts, he said.
Brazil and Chile both declared suspension of Argentine beef imports, while Paraguay imposed a ban on imports of live animals and high-risk products.
In the Brazilian province of Rio Grande do Sul, which has Corrientes as a neighbour across the border, authorities also established a hygiene barrier to inspect every vehicle passing through.
Foot-and-mouth disease has previously caused heavy losses to Mercosur member nations.
It hit Argentina at a time when Uruguayan beef had just secured re-entry to Mexico, which imposed a ban in 2001 after a disease outbreak in Uruguay.
Brazil is still under a ban by 56 nations since the end of 2005 as a result of the disease detected in its southern states.
Foot-and-mouth, which is not contagious to humans, is a highly communicable viral disease among cloven-hoofed animals like cattle, goats and sheep, causing fever and blistery lesions on the tongue, lips and hoofs of the animal. The consequences also include a reduction in the meat volume and milk production of surviving animals.