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Foot and mouth disease strikes again in North West, KZN and Limpopo

Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and North West are scrambling to contain outbreaks of foot and mouth disease. (Photo: Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Three provinces are working to curb the spread of the disease and the department of agriculture has banned any movement of livestock from the affected areas.

As the North West, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo struggle to contain the spread of foot and mouth disease (FMD), the department of agriculture has introduced permanent movement restrictions to prevent the free movement of livestock in affected areas.

Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development spokesperson Reggie Ngcobo said a case of foot and mouth disease was confirmed on a commercial stud farm in North West province.  

“The provincial veterinary services conducted epidemiological investigations following reports and positive laboratory results and have confirmed the diagnosis. The farm and other linked farms have been placed under quarantine while further surveillance in the area is being conducted to determine the extent of the outbreak,” said Ngcobo.

Ngcobo said another outbreak of the disease was detected in the previous foot and mouth disease-free zone in Collins Chabane municipality (Vhembe district) in Limpopo Province in March 2022. 

“Infection was detected in two locations in the former foot and mouth disease-free zone and involves cattle in communal grazing areas. One of the two new infected locations is in the Disease Management Area (DMA), which was declared in January 2019 and remains in place, while the other is north of it. Other locations in the area with clinical signs suggestive of FMD are under investigation,” he said.   

Ngcobo said the outbreak is most likely due to spillover from an outbreak in the adjacent foot and mouth disease protection zone, which was detected in March 2021. 

“There are permanent movement restrictions in place in the protection zone, preventing the free movement of cloven-hoofed livestock into the FMD-free zone. The affected dip tanks were placed under quarantine and no cloven-hoofed animals were allowed to move from these locations.”

He said to curtail the spread of the disease, cattle were vaccinated to establish a band of resistant animals around the known positive dip tanks.  

“Based on surveillance activities conducted in the second half of 2021, it appeared at the time that the infection had come to an end.  

“However, it resurfaced in 2022 in the former FMD-free zone,” he said.

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Limpopo

Surveillance activities in the newly affected area are under way to determine the extent of the spread of the disease both within and to the north of the Disease Management Area. 

“Vaccination in the area has started in an effort to curtail further spread of the disease,” Ngcobo said.

KwaZulu-Natal

Ngcobo said the foot and mouth disease outbreak in KwaZulu-Natal continues and that the vaccination campaign has begun.

“Two new affected locations have been identified. One falls just outside of the DMA in the Mthonjaneni municipality, while the other one falls some distance to the southwest of the DMA, in the uMlalazi municipality (near the Nkandla and Maphumulo municipalities).”

Ngcobo said the newly infected dip tanks have been placed under quarantine, and no cloven-hoofed animals are allowed to move from these locations. 

“Clinical and serological surveillance has been intensified in the dip tanks surrounding the newly infected area to determine the extent of the spread. All farmers, livestock owners, members of industry and other stakeholders are urged to abide by the movement restrictions in place in both the Limpopo and KZN DMAs, as well as the restrictions within the affected areas. These restrictions are deemed necessary to prevent the further spread of the virus out of the affected areas,” he said.

Farmers, livestock owners, members of industry and stakeholders in the rest of the country are urged to “know what you are buying”, including where possible, seeking a health attestation from the seller’s veterinarian.   

“I wish to remind livestock owners that foot and mouth disease is transmitted by moving cattle from infected premises and urge all owners not to move animals if there is a suspicion of illness,” said Ngcobo.  

KZN MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development, Bongiwe Sithole-Moloi, said the movement of livestock in Mkhanyakude, Zululand and King Cetshwayo will be prohibited for five years in efforts to curb the spread of foot and mouth disease in the affected areas.

Sithole-Moloi says government will conduct random roadblocks in the affected areas to ensure communities comply with the movement prohibition.

“We are pleading with the farmers and cattle owners to refrain from transporting cattle for whatever occasion because this leads to the spread of the disease. We also urge people to stop moving livestock at night.”

She called on law enforcement agencies to aid in the campaign to quell the spread of the disease by ensuring compliance with the movement ban.

“Government understands the impact the ban will have on the livelihoods of stock owners, but curbing the spread should take priority. More than 1,600 cattle were earmarked for vaccination with half… getting the vaccination on 21 March 2022,” said Sithole-Moloi.

Sithole-Moloi said stock theft, which is prevalent in the area, frustrates the efforts to stop the spread of the disease.

“Customary payment of lobola using livestock during marriage negotiations is also responsible for spreading the disease to other areas,” she said. 

Bongani Gina, a local stock owner, said the vaccination of livestock has brought much-needed support to rural communities.

“The action taken by the government is most welcome. We have been very worried about this disease, and the roll-out of vaccination will assist us a great deal,” said Gina.

He said the response by the livestock farmers to a call by the local veterinarians, who alerted the farmers about the disease, should be applauded.

Bhekisana Mbatha, chair of uMkhanyakude District Livestock Association, said the vaccination will stop the spread and rescue the local economy because the livestock movement ban affected owners who depended on the proceeds of sales for subsistence.

He said that stock theft should be combated head-on by the law enforcement agencies to ensure that it didn’t derail the government’s efforts.

North West

National Animal Health Forum chair Gerhard Schutte said they had noted with great concern the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the Potchefstroom area, North West, as reported to the International Organization for Animal Health, the EIA and Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development.

“It appears that the outbreak is located in the Potchefstroom area and if handled properly, it will be able to be resolved quickly. This outbreak is far beyond the normal endemic foot-and-mouth disease areas and it has a huge impact on the trade in livestock and livestock products,” he said.

Schutte said the outbreak in the Potchefstroom area would have to be dealt with urgently in North West, as in Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal.

“It would seem that this outbreak is once again the result of the possible illegal movement of cattle from the affected areas. We, together with the industries, want to put it on record that such actions are seen as industrial sabotage and extremely drastic action will be taken against individuals who are guilty of this,” he said.

Schutte called on the industry to self-regulate, apply and keep the movement of livestock to a minimum. 

“Any new animals received on a property or farm must first be placed in quarantine. We request that everyone familiarise themselves with the clinical symptoms of foot and mouth disease and any suspected cases to the local state veterinarian reports,” Schutte said. DM/OBP

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