ROME (AP) -- A U.N. agency is warning that an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Egypt could spread and threaten livestock in North Africa and the Middle East, leading to possible food shortages.

The disease is not a direct threat to humans but meat and milk from sick animals are unsafe for consumption.

The Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization said Thursday that 40,222 cases of the disease are suspected in Egypt and 4,658 animals, mostly calves, have already died. The agency said 6.3 million buffalo and cattle and 7.5 million sheep and goats are at risk in Egypt.

The agency said Egypt needs regional help in obtaining vaccines.

In Egypt, farmers have accused the government of incompetence, and have thrown dead cows in front of governors' offices during protests.

Copyright 2012 The AP.

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