Ermelo — Locals have been warned not to eat the meat of cattle that have died as a result of the Red Water disease outbreak in Mpumalanga's Ermelo area.
The provincial Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Administration Department reported that the outbreak has killed 12 cattle in Ermelo and Amsterdam since the beginning of the year.
"We warn residents to not eat the meat as it might get them sick. They risk exposure to diseases such as anthrax," said department's chief director of professional services, Stemmer Ndala, on Thursday.
Ndala said veterinarians had been sent to farms to prevent the disease from spreading.
"Farmers must not panic because everything is under control and cattle have been vaccinated," he said.
He said the disease was common throughout the year but heavy rains and heat might have caused the recent outbreak.
"It is actually common throughout the year, but this time around because of the rains and the high heat, we believe that it has actually created the condition for the survival or thriving of certain ticks that would normally affect the animals.
"We believe that is the reason, but primarily the high rainfall that we had - actually contributed to this," said Ndala.
He said Red Water disease or Bacillary Hemoglobinuria comes from the classic red colour of the urine in the affected animals, mostly cattle and sheep. It has an acute onset and is fatal.
"The incubation period of this disease is seven to 10 days. Cattle that are in the best condition seem to be the most susceptible," Ndala said.
He said symptoms include jaundice, fever, abdominal pain (arched back), dark faeces, dark red urine, oedema and laboured breathing.
"In some cases cattle may be found dead in the pasture without clinical signs ever being observed," said Ndala.
He said last year, more than 20 cattle died on Athol Farm near Ermelo after contracting the disease.