THE Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) outbreak detected at the Kasenu village in the Zambezi Region on 28 May 2021 continues to spread like wild fire, infecting about 5,000 cattle so far and threatening the viability of meat exports of the country to international markets.
Minister of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform, Calle Schlettwein, in a statement tabled in parliament this week, updated the nation on the FMD outbreak which has since mutated into a more infectious strain, and has infecting smaller cloven hoof livestock as well.
Schlettwein explained that to date the outbreak has spread to Kabbe North and Katima Rural Constituencies, infecting thousands of cattle over a total of 28 crush pen areas or localities.
“The disease outbreak has potential to severely affect and paralyze the economic activities of a country and the livelihoods of farmers and their dependents, as well as food security at national and household level. Notably, FMD outbreak also has diverse negative effects on trade in animals and animal products as many countries in the world that are free from FMD will not accept meat from an infected country or zone,” Schlettwein said.
He further warned that should the FMD outbreak spread to Northern Communal Areas (NCAs), it will hamper progress with efforts made by the ministry to achieve freedom from the disease in the Protection Zone of Namibia.
It will also negatively affect the trade agreements that Namibia recently signed with countries, such as Ghana, on the export of meat and meat products from the NCAs, Schlettwein stated.
The minister added that despite the higher vaccination coverage in the infected herds, it was observed that the infection rates remained high among the vaccinated cattle, which is an indication of the presence of a different FMD virus variant.
This was confirmed through further field and laboratory investigations, which identified a new FMD virus serotype O on 9 August 2021 for the first time in the history of Namibia.
A total of 150 cattle are reported to have died due to FMD related causes.
The new FMD serotype O also causes clinical cases in goats and sheep and they can spread the disease further to other susceptible animals.
Schlettwein stated that investigations showed that the new FMD serotype O was introduced into Namibia from Zambia through illegal cross-border movement of livestock between the Zambezi Region and Zambia.
In addition to FMD serotype O, Zambia has reported an ongoing outbreak of FMD serotype A in areas next to the border with Namibia and Angola.
“It is important to note that the FMD serotypes A and O are new viruses in Southern Africa and there is, therefore, a need for collaboration among SADC Member States, particularly the immediate neighbouring countries in the control and prevention of these variants as they pose a threat to the livestock industry of Namibia,” Schlettwein warned.
He added that 340 000 doses of FMD serotype O were procured at a cost of N$6,032,261.51 and delivered on 17 September 2021.
Vaccination has started and is currently ongoing, targeting the cattle population of 170,000 in the Zambezi Region.
Farmers are urged to take all cattle at the nearest crush pen for vaccination.