HARARE, September 8 (The Source) – The outbreak of foot and mouth disease in central and southern Zimbabwe is worrying neighbouring South Africa and Botswana, who have stepped in to help contain the outbreak to stop it from spreading across the borders, South Africa’s Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) has said.
Zimbabwe has experienced regular outbreaks of FMD — a highly contagious disease of cloven-hoofed animals — in recent times in cattle-rich regions of Matabeleland and Midlands, which killed hundreds of cattle in those regions over the past two years.
In April this year, the outbreaks were discovered in Zvishavane, Gweru, Mvuma and parts of Matabeleland South. The same areas experienced an outbreak around the same time last year.
South Africa itself regained its FMD-free zone status in February last year, following an outbreak in 2011.
“A number of markets were lost, some of which have still not been opened yet. The South African livestock industry cannot afford another setback at present,” said DAFF in a statement.
A meeting between the directors of Animal Health/Veterinary Services of South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe was held in Harare on August 31 to assess and discuss the current FMD situation in Zimbabwe.
“The Chief Veterinary Officer of Zimbabwe assured the two counterparts that the situation is under control, albeit at great expense,” said DAFF.
“The drought that Zimbabwe experienced resulted in a number of cattle moving southwards to designated relief grazing when the disease had already been discovered.”
It said that control measures to “mitigate risks that could threaten the country s FMD-free zone status have been instituted by the Zimbabwean veterinary authorities.”
Zimbabwe has procured and delivered over 450,000 doses of vaccine to different parts of the country where there is active FMD infection.
Out of this, 70,000 doses have been dispatched to parts of Matabeleland South Province, bordering South Africa and Botswana and vaccination in the area is presently on-going. A total of 120,000 animals in the southern border area of Zimbabwe are expected to be vaccinated at least twice by end of September to bring current outbreaks in the area under control.
The authorities have placed the area under quarantine and no animals are allowed in or out.
“The area that has been affected in Zimbabwe is near the Madimbo Corridor and extends west to Tuli Circle; which is South Africa s FMD protection zone,” said DAFF, adding that efforts to strengthen the fence bordering Zimbabwe have started and 165 km of fence has been strengthened.
Since the increase in number of cases in Zimbabwe was reported, patrols along the border have been intensified, it added.
Zimbabwe suspended beef exports to the European Union and other countries in 2001 when the state-owned Cold Storage Company, at one time the largest meat processor in Africa, collapsed due to persistent outbreaks of FMD.
To contain the current outbreak, government has stopped issuing out new licenses for abattoirs and cancelled cattle sales in the affected areas.