Foot-and-Mouth Disease outbreak confirmed

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Pretoria - Government has confirmed an outbreak of Foot-and-Mouth Disease in KwaZulu-Natal after physical inspections were conducted on the animals in the protection zone in some parts of Northern KwaZulu-Natal. 

These animals have shown lesions which ranged from a week-old and some older than two weeks.

The Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Tina Joemat-Pettersson and MEC for Agriculture, Environmental Affairs and Rural Development, Lydia Johnson, visited the area earlier today.

In a joint statement, the two departments said some cattle in 23 dip tanks had also tested positive on a non- structural protein test. 

"If a test is positive it confirms active infection of an FMD virus even though the specific strain has not been identified. What this means essentially is that we have an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease," said the departments.

Earlier this week, the minister suspended exports of all cloven hoofed animal products. However, this would not apply to products which would have been processed to inactivate the FMD virus.

The department said it was hard at work trying to quantify the economic impact on the export of wool, live animals and cloven-hoofed game animals. The economic impact of the outbreak on the export of Venison (game meat) is estimated to cost R50 million while hides and skins with an estimated amount of R300 million per annum.

Following the visit to KwaZulu-Natal, the two departments said further tests were being conducted to identify the strain of FMD. The departments explained that the disease is different from the outbreak which occurred in Camperdown in 2000, which was identified as serotype-O. 

Surveillance has also been intensified with a view to determining the furthest point of infection.

Surveillance will be conducted in areas north of the Umfolosi River, as well as in the South of KwaZulu-Natal and in provinces adjacent to KwaZulu-Natal, including the Free State, Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga. 

The department will also be liaising with the neighbouring countries, Swaziland and Mozambique, to ensure harmonised control measures. 

"Over 600 animals have been tested, and 50 percent of them were found to be positive. Government wishes to convey the message that the situation is under control, and that there is no need to panic. A team of experts from the department is on the ground conducting further investigations to verify the results. The control measures will be determined by the findings of this investigation," said the two departments.

Cabinet earlier today praised the department for having picked up positive serological results for Foot and Mouth Disease in the northern KwaZulu-Natal during routine surveillance in the protection zone for the disease. 

Foot-and-Mouth Disease is a severe, highly contagious viral disease which affects livestock with significant economic impact. The disease affects cattle and swine as well as sheep, goats, and other cloven-hoofed animals. The disease does not affect human beings. FMD is, however, not a communicable disease, thus the outbreak will not affect the domestic supply of meat and meat products. - BuaNews