Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) should be regarded as a real and present danger on any farm at the moment.
This was according to Dr Danie Odendaal, founder and director of the Veterinarian Network (V-Net), responding to the World Organisation for Animal Health’s (OIE) official confirmation of a foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak on two farms between Potchefstroom and Ventersdorp in North West, on Monday, 21 March.
According to the report, the Agricultural Research Council’s Onderstepoort Veterinary Research OIE Reference Laboratory had first tested samples for FMD from this area on 17 February.
The OIE report stated that 1 100 head of cattle in North West had been infected with the disease, while a further 500 head of cattle had been exposed to FMD.
The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (agriculture department) said in a statement released on Tuesday, 22 March, that the two farms and other linked farms had been placed under quarantine, while further surveillance was being conducted in the area to determine the extent of the outbreak.
A joint operations commission had been established, supported by the members of the mayoral committees for safety and security in both affected local municipalities, as well as provincial disaster risk management committees, the statement said.
Dewald Olivier, CEO of the South African Feedlot Association, commended the agriculture department for weighing up all its options.
“If [the department had simply] decided to ‘close down’ the entire province, we would not have been able to export any meat to China in the foreseeable future.”
He also said farmers and feedlots had to take special care at this time. “Unfortunately, there are feedlots who do not have the necessary biosecurity [measures] in place. These feedlots place the entire industry at risk.”
Another outbreak of FMD was also reported in a previous FMD-free zone in Collins Chabane Local Municipality in Limpopo earlier this month, the statement said.
“Infections were detected in two locations in the former FMD-free zone and involved cattle in communal grazing areas. One of the two new infected locations was in the province’s disease management area, which was declared in January 2019 and remained in place, while the other was north of it.”
The agriculture department said it was still investigating other locations in the area where animals with clinical symptoms of FMD had been reported.
Meanwhile, the FMD outbreak in KwaZulu-Natal was ongoing, and a vaccination campaign had thus commenced.
Two new affected locations had also been identified. The first was just outside of the disease management area in the Mthonjaneni Local Municipality, while the other was some distance to the southwest of the area, in the uMlalazi Local Municipality.
In terms of the buying and selling of animals, the agriculture department said all buyers had to ensure that they obtained a formal attestation from the seller, confirming the health status of the animals they were buying.
If animals showed any suspicious clinical symptoms, such as salivation, blisters in the mouth, limping or hoof lesions, they needed to be reported to the local state veterinarian immediately. Such animals could not be moved under any circumstances.