With the new strain of foot-and-mouth disease confirmed in the Zambezi region, local farmers fear that if the outbreak continues to worsen, they will be left without a market if Meatco ceases operations.
On 9 August 2021, laboratory analysis confirmed a new strain of the FMD virus serotype O in samples collected from the Kabbe North constituency as one of the virus serotypes causing the current outbreak in the Zambezi region, apart from the FMD virus serotypes SAT I and 2, which were identified at the beginning of the outbreak.
This was confirmed by the agriculture ministry’s chief veterinary officer Dr Albertina Shilongo, who said this is the first time in the history of Namibia that the FMD serotype O is being identified.
“The high infection rate caused by the new FMD serotype O explains the poor response to the vaccination to this outbreak. Further investigations to establish the source of the FMD serotype O are ongoing. However, it is suspected that there are illegal cross-border movements of cattle between Namibia’s Zambezi region and Zambia,” she observed.
Zambia reported outbreaks of FMD serotype O in 2019 and 2020 to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).
In an interview with New Era this week, Kabbe South councillor John Likando said so far, most parts in the area are now accessible but with difficulty, and only 4x4 vehicles can manage to reach the affected areas.
“With the new zero type FMD, all staff on the ground were told to stop ongoing vaccinations as the current dose has no resistance to the new types. However, the traditional method of using idiosed salt and leaks has proven to be working,” he added.
According to him, local farmers are worried that if the situation is not brought under control, they will lose the market as Meatco would halt operations.
“Our worry now is that the halting of Meatco’s slaughtering process might take us back to square one, depending on it being a temporary or long-time closure. A better approach is needed with regards to the disease, as it has spread all over the region. Monitoring teams of experts need to be on the ground, just to ensure the movement of cattle as well as restrictions on movements in safer areas for Meatco to continue operations,” Likando stated.
Contacted for comment, the agriculture ministry’s spokesperson Jona Musheko said Meatco is just going to slaughter the livestock that is already in quarantine.
“Once those are done, and based on the FMD situation in the region, we will do an assessment to determine whether it’s still viable or not to continue operating while fighting the FMD outbreak.”
The FMD outbreak was detected on 27 May, and confirmed by the Central Veterinary Laboratory on 3 June 2021 in the FMD-infected zone at Kasenu village in the Kabbe South constituency.
Since the index case, the disease spread to three other constituencies, namely Kabbe North, Katima Rural and Kongola, infecting over 1 300 cattle in 18 areas and villages. The latest FMD cases were detected at the Mafube crush pen area in Kabbe South on 6 August 2021.
Shilongo explained that despite the high vaccination coverage (over 90%) of cattle against FMD in the four constituencies, new cases of the disease continue to be observed in vaccinated herds.
In line with the Animal Health Act, the four infected constituencies, being Kabbe South, Kabbe North, Katima Rural and Kongola, are declared as infected areas.
While the entire Zambezi region is declared a disease management area (DMA), other measures include a movement ban of all cloven-hoofed animals out, in and through such areas.
The restriction of movement of potentially infectious commodities within and through the DMA such as raw meat, raw milk, hides, skins, game trophies, grass and plant materials, with the exception of potted plants, is in place.
Shilongo said the emergency vaccination of cattle against the new FMD serotype O will commence in the next three weeks, once the vaccine is available.
However, the slaughtering of cloven-hoofed animals for own consumption and for social events such as funerals and weddings within a community is allowed, but the meat or raw products from the slaughtered animal are not allowed to be moved out of such community or village.
Cattle already in quarantine will be handled as per the commodity-based trade (CBT) protocol. The movement of meat already at the Katima Mulilo abattoir will be handled according to the CBT requirements and OIE guidelines. Farmers in the Zambezi region have thus been cautioned to refrain from allowing the illegal cross- border movements of livestock to avoid the introduction of exotic FMD serotypes.