Article supplied: Afrivet
It is with some dismay but little surprise that we learn from a media release by the Minister of Agriculture (DALRRD) of another outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), this time near Mtubatuba in KZN. This press release also announces the declaration of a temporary “standstill area” in 2 districts as well as in 3 further local municipalities of a third district municipality, in and around Matubatuba.
Foot-and-mouth disease is a highly contagious viral disease of cloven-hooved animals and livestock such as cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, and many ungulate game species. The African buffalo is an asymptomatic carrier of the locally found southern Africa Type SAT strains. While the disease is severe in naïve cattle and pigs, for example dairy cattle in Europe, it is relatively mild and often almost symptomless in the local, indigenous cattle of the southern African region. Consequently, the disease is very strictly controlled under the auspices of the OIE and under its geographically based control measures, countries (or sometimes parts/zones of countries) are declared FMD-free or otherwise. “To lose this FMD-free accreditation has very severe consequences on the affected country’s ability to trade internationally with livestock, livestock products and even sometimes other agricultural products.” says Dr Peter, CEO of Afrivet.
South Africa has suffered repeated crises caused by FMD outbreaks over the past 20 years, perhaps more than any other southern African country, with the exception of Zimbabwe. This outbreak is the 4th since 2000 following hot on the heels of the previous one in Limpopo resulting in South Africa losing its international FMD-free zone recognition. Such events have devastating economic consequences for livestock producers and associated industries.
Recognising the likelihood of another outbreak and thus the threat of subsequent control measures, and understanding the need for a new approach, Afrivet, over the past few years, teamed up with the recently late Professor Gavin Thomson to publish, during May 2021, a video and monograph, Foot-and-mouth disease in South Africa: current problems and proposed solutions.
Dr Peter Oberem highlights a few aspects of this publication, “In this, we examine what has been the policy since the 1940’s and, given the fast pace of technological advances in diagnostic tools and vaccines, propose a new look at policies that have obviously not been adequate for some time now as the situation, much as we see with Covid-19, is different in southern Africa with so many cases being subclinical and difficult to detect. We propose, together with modern cow-side diagnostics, carcass testing and vaccination, a move to “commodity-based” FMD trade controls as opposed to the geographically based one currently applied. This could allow for certification of products as being FMD-free even from FMD positive areas.”
Under the current circumstances, however, Afrivet must advise all owners of cloven-hooved livestock to institute the strictest of biosecurity measures, measures that we have all learned so well under covid-19 restrictions; social distancing (do not introduce new animals into your flocks and herds); sanitisation/hygiene (to assist, Afrivet has recently launched a new disinfectant, ACT long Acting which lasts for up to 7 days on certain surfaces) and masks (obviously not for FMD and our cattle).
When asked if FMD and hand foot and mouth disease are the same thing, Dr Peter elaborates to say that they are not and that the virus that affects humans is a Coxsackievirus (different from foot-and-mouth disease) and affects mainly children under the age of 10 years of age. They get sores in their mouths and red urticaria and lesions on their hands and feet. So, FMD does not affect people.