17 June 2010

Namibia: RVF Under Control - for the Time Being

NAMIBIA got off lightly from the recent outbreak of Rift Valley fever (RVF), which caused the agricultural sector revenue losses of millions of dollars.

However, should farmers not take precautionary measures by vaccinating their animals, they might be in for a rough ride next summer.

So says Dr Cleopas Bamhare, acting chief veterinary officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry.

According to Bamhare, no new RVF infections have been reported since the ones reported on six farms in the Hardap Region and one in the Karas Region. The onset of winter played a significant role in bringing the deadly disease under control for the time being, he said.

Seventeen animals died in the two affected regions in what was regarded as the first RVF outbreak in Namibia since 1985.

Hundreds of animals and close to 20 people died of RVF in neighbouring South Africa (SA) recently.

If Namibia does not prepare adequately against a follow-up outbreak, the country might be worse off than it was during last month's outbreak.

"It is the next season that we are worried about. For now, it is under control," Bamhare said.

No human infections have been reported in Namibia.

He said the department of veterinary services dealt with the outbreak 'textbook-style', which helped convince trade partners to lift restrictions on imports of Namibian animals and meat products within weeks.

"And a situation like that [trade restrictions] could take months to bring under control, crippling the industry," Bamhare said.

He said there are still no proper statistics available of the number of animals that have been vaccinated against RVF. In terms of an agreement with SA, live animals must have been vaccinated at least 21 days before being allowed into that country.

Bamhare spoke to The Namibian at an aquatic animal health training seminar that started in Swakopmund on Tuesday evening. The workshop continues until Saturday.

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