‘South Africa is sitting on a bluetongue timebomb’

Bluetongue posed an extremely serious danger to sheep production in South Africa and the disease was expected to escalate markedly during the rest of summer and in early autumn of 2023.

‘South Africa is sitting on a bluetongue timebomb’
Good summer rain and a lack of vaccines means that South Africa could soon be facing outbreaks of bluetongue.
Photo: Annelie Coleman
- Advertisement -

This was according to Dr Danie Odendaal, director of the South African Veterinarian Network, who said the expected spike in bluetongue outbreaks could be ascribed to good summer rain, increased temperatures and an acute lack of vaccinations provided by Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP).

According to Odendaal, the manufacturing of vaccines by the private sector was therefore the only way to mitigate the long-term implications of the lack of inoculations.

“Without sufficient vaccines to prevent livestock from being infected with the bluetongue virus, we are facing a bluetongue time bomb. Because of the problems with the availability of vaccines, a process to develop vaccines was started by the private sector about five years ago. During this period, blood samples were collected all over South Africa and a vaccine was consequently developed. Application has since been made for the official registration of the product, but this has developed into a long, drawn-out affair without any results so far.

- Advertisement -

“I therefore call on organised agriculture structures to engage with the relevant authorities on the matter. We need the vaccines as a matter of urgency to protect our national sheep herd,” Odendaal told Farmer’s Weekly.

He said bluetongue was an infectious vector-borne and potentially fatal viral disease, which was transmitted by midges. The disease was characterised by fever, excessive salivation and swelling of the face and tongue. Some animals also developed foot lesions, resulting in lameness.

“There is no treatment against the disease. The aim of treating infected animals is to make them feel better until they have developed immunity against the virus. Vaccination is the most effective way to minimise losses and interrupt the cycle from an infected animal to vector,” Odendaal added.

OBP did not respond to comment by the time of publication.

Previous articleBeef Shorthorn: a breed made for crossbreeding!
Next articleAccusations of price gouging as US egg profits soar
Annelie Coleman represents Farmer’s Weekly in the Free State, North West and Northern Cape. Agriculture is in her blood. She grew up on a maize farm in the Wesselsbron district where her brother is still continuing with the family business. Annelie is passionate about the area she works in and calls it ‘God’s own country’. She’s particularly interested in beef cattle farming, especially with the indigenous African breeds. She’s an avid reader and owns a comprehensive collection of Africana covering hunting in colonial Africa, missionary history of same period, as well as Rhodesian literature.