Cases of Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) have been reported in the Free State, Limpopo and Gauteng provinces. New cases are still being reported in the North West and KwaZulu-Natal. This follows on the movement of animals from the control area bordering the Kruger National Park and after infected animals were sold at auctions.
Foot-and-mouth disease is a highly contagious viral disease of cloven-hoofed animals such as cattle, sheep, goats and pigs. The current outbreak is currently only found in cattle and buffalo (in the northern part of KwaZulu-Natal). The disease has an incubation period of up to two weeks from the time the animal is infected until it shows clinical signs. During this period, animals appear normal and healthy and if they are moved, the disease spreads with the animals. Auctions create high risk opportunities for animals from different origins to gather, mix, and move to new locations where they can introduce the disease contracted from infected animals at the auction.
The FMD virus affects the inside of the mouth and the skin around the hooves. It causes painful blisters in the mouth leading to loss of appetite and excessive drooling. The tissue around the hooves becomes painful, red and swollen which results in lameness. The feet can also develop raw sores.
Foot-and-mouth disease is a government-controlled disease because it spreads so easily and because of its major impact on the country’s economy. Animals loose weight and refuse to eat and SA cannot export animals and animal products to countries that are free of Foot-and-mouth disease. If the disease is diagnosed on a farm, the farm and neighboring farms are immediately placed under quarantine to stop animals and people spreading the disease, and tests are done to determine how far the disease has already spread. All efforts must be made to prevent further spread and the simplest method is sometimes to slaughter infected herds.
The Western Cape is currently still free of Foot-and-mouth disease and measures are being put in place to maintain its free status. All livestock owners are called upon to purchase livestock only from reliable sources and preferably not from affected provinces. Furthermore, it is highly recommended that a certificate from a private veterinarian accompanies purchased animals. The veterinarian should indicate that the disease does not occur in the area of origin and that the animals being moved are clinically healthy. Animals must then be kept isolated at the destination for a period of at least four weeks and watched closely for signs of illness before mixing with the rest of the herd. Buying animals at an auction remains a big risk and is not recommended.
If everyone works together and handles the movement of animals responsibly, we can prevent the disease from entering our province and the severe financial losses that come with it. For further infomation, contact your nearest state veterinarian at https://www.elsenburg.com/veterinary-services/animal-health-and-disease-control/
To learn more about FMD, visit the WCDoA website: https://bit.ly/3PpeK8R
Head of Communication
Western Cape Department of Agriculture
Tel: 084 817 2376