12 March 2014

Kenya: Strange Disease Kills Livestock in Laikipia

The government has introduced mobile screening services for a killer animal disease in Laikipia County. The disease is currently incurable.

The Contagious Bovine PleuroPneumonia (CBPP) disease was first spotted at Jiani Ranch in Wiyumiririe, Laikipia East, in August last year. The Kenya Agricultural Research Institute and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries have now set up mobile screening services that would benefit farmers in identifying whether their animals have been affected.

Speaking while commissioning screening of cattle for the CBPP at Wiyumiririe Chiefs Camp in Laikipia County, Agriculture cabinet secretary Felix Koskei urged farmers to kill all the animals that would test positive for the disease as it has no cure.

"The disease is highly contagious from one animal to another; bacteria affects the lungs causing respiratory distress and can occasionally affect the joints spreading fast among the animals. However, you need not to worry as the meat from the animals is fit for human consumption as the disease only affects lungs," Koskei assured the farmers.

Koskei said the government would train veterinary, extension, county and government staff and farmers to be at the forefront in fighting the cow disease.

Laikipia county veterinary officer Dr Kisa Juma Ngeiywa said the screening caravan that has been set up at the cost of Sh12 million would see all the cows in the sub-county screened to avert the spread of the disease, which can kill within three weeks of infection.

"We urge farmers to look out for the signs that range from coughing, fever, difficulties in breathing and mucus," said Ngeiywa, adding that healthy animals inhale droplets from the infected animals when they come into contact.

CBBP vaccine will prevent thousands of farmers from losing their livestock.

Laikipia County, which is the migration route for animals from North Eastern Kenya to other parts of the country, risks losing about Sh14.5 billion per year following the outbreak of the disease.

Kari deputy director Joseph Muriithi said apart from the CBPP vaccine, they are developing other effective vaccines for disease control including thermostable PPR and Mastitis vaccines.

"We are collaborating with other institutions to develop the new vaccine for lung plague and we all have a role to play in the project. Veterinary services play a key role within the disease control mandate," Dr Muriithi said.

He said the screening of cattle is an important method that aims to identify and remove affected animals from the herd through a slaughter policy.

Muriithi said ongoing CBPP research aims to use the modern technology of bioinformatics to produce a vaccine without limitations like delivery. This, he said, will reduce government control on distribution while improving market penetration.

"Partners expect that the new vaccine will become available for field testing in 2015 and by then they will have data on economic impact to enable the government identify benefits of the vaccination. This will provide evidence on the need for the government to allocate funds for vaccination of livestock as a proactive preventive strategy rather than responding to disease outbreaks only," he said.

County executive member in charge of livestock Duncan Mwariri confirmed that the control of the disease has been hampered by the movement of pastoralists into the county in search of pasture.

"We are hoping to fast-track this service so that the disease does not spread to other parts of the county as well as lift the ban in the area and in some farms which are now on quarantine," said Mwariri.

Mwariri asked farmers who want to buy cattle from neighbouring areas to ensure they are tested and screened for the disease before moving them into the area.

According to Kari researcher and head of the project Dr Hezron Wesonga, Kari has partnered with a research institute in Canada to develop a better vaccine for the disease.

The study and research which started in March last year aims to develop a safe and affordable vaccine for CBPP that is effective and is easy to produce, store and transport.

"It is harder to control the contagious disease in pastoralist areas where cattle move freely leading to many losses for farmers, but it is more controllable when they are being transported to the market," Wesonga said.

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