The veterinary services have so far managed to vaccinate 70 354 cattle out of 75 000 target population against foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), which is fast spreading in the Zambezi region.
The highly infectious disease was detected on 27 May and was confirmed by the central veterinary laboratory on 3 June in the FMD infected zone at Kasenu village in Kabbe South constituency.
To date, the disease has spread to Luhonono, Namiyundu, Nakabolelwa, Muzii, Ikaba, Kalala, Nankuntwe, Nfooma and Nakabolelwa villages.
Kabbe South councillor John Likando raised concern that there is a serious prevalence of FMD in floodplain areas such Muzii, Nankutwe, Natungu, Itomba and Kalala villages.
“Farmers are losing cattle on a daily basis. The constituency office has been flooded with calls to seek assistance. The major challenges are accessibility. For now, it is only by helicopter or the hover boat which the veterinary doesn’t have. I highly recommend the use of helicopter to drop teams in the hotspot areas to curb the outbreak,” Likando said.
If the situation persists and spreads wide, Likando fears Meatco operations will suffer the same challenges that led to the 2015 closure.
Contacted for comment this week, chief veterinary officer Dr Albertina Shilongo said there is sufficient FMD vaccine to control the outbreak.
The Katima Mulilo state veterinary office has received 186 000 doses of FMD vaccine from the Botswana Vaccine Institute and also from other northern communal areas (NCA) regions.
She said the directorate of veterinary services has not received any report of animal deaths due to FMD outbreak in the Zambezi region.
“FMD has a low mortality rate in adult animals but often high mortality in young animals due to myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle). FMD virus also causes blisters or vesicles, which rupture and leave erosions or sores on the tongue, gum, between the claws and coronary band of the hooves and on the udder, which results in excessive pain, starvation and reduction in milk production,” Shilongo explained.
On whether veterinary authorities are planning to use aerial support, she said the ministry has made arrangements for two speed boats to transport veterinary staff to the affected flood areas for controlling the outbreak.
Furthermore, she said progress is dependent on the availability of all resources required to control the outbreak and easy accessibility to the flood prone areas.
“Challenges are all over, including at the areas currently affected by FMD, as farmers are moving their cattle to better grazing areas – and that movement is hampering progress to control and contain the outbreak within a short time successfully, so that restrictions are lifted,” Shilongo indicated.
Other challenges experienced include lack of transport to reach the infected areas initially but this she says has now been solved.
There are also insufficient vehicles to execute planned outbreak control activities on time on the upper ground. For this exercise, she said 12 vehicles are required.
Illegal livestock movements in and out of the infected areas due to poor grazing on the upper ground and water crisis at the roadblocks has also been identified.
This, she says, the ministry is in the process of solving this problem.
Shilongo said due to roadblocks not operating 24/7, there is a loophole to illegally transport infectious materials from the infected areas to the clean areas.
According to her, farmers report suspected cases late to the veterinary services and some farmers are not presenting all cattle for vaccination as requested.
Suspension of illegal movement of cattle from Zambia by farmers has also been observed since the Katima Mulilo abattoir started operating.
The directorate is requesting farmers and the public at large to cooperate and adhere to the control measures that are in place for the control and containment of the outbreak so that the situation normalises.
Farmers are urged to take all their cattle for vaccination at the nearest crushpen and also report sick animals to the state veterinary offices.