14 January 2019

South Africa: Experts Deployed to Check Extent of Foot and Mouth Disease

Photo: New Era
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A team of veterinary services experts has been deployed in Vhembe district, Limpopo, to check the extent of the spread of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD).

This follows confirmed cases of FMD by the national Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries on 7 January 2019, which prompted the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) to suspend South Africa's FMD-free status.

The temporary suspension has caused a few neighbouring trading countries to ban the country's exports.

The Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Senzeni Zokwana, on Monday met with farmer organisations within the red meat sector to discuss the implications of the recent FMD outbreak and solutions from the perspective of looking at international trade.

Addressing the media after the meeting, Zokwana emphasised that the outbreak is limited to Sundani district in Vhembe. He noted that the affected cattle is less than 50 in an area with about 10 000 to 15 000.

"Only a small portion for 50 cattle, which are currently quarantined as we speak, has been affected. Tests were done and they confirmed that they have been infected," Zokwana said.

Zokwana also announced that three task teams were deployed in the area on Monday to do vaccinations and hopefully clean the animals.

"One task team will look at the technical aspect, where we will have the industry deploying some of the vets in their employ to come and assist us so that we can fast track the programme to clear as many animals as possible, and to ensure that we are able to vaccinate all the animals.

"The second task team is to ensure that we can retain as much of our trading partners globally, as we can assure that any meat we sell overseas will be from unaffected areas in compartments that we have a history of FMD.

"The third task team will deal with media to make sure that whatever media statement we issue is based on facts [and] that we are not hiding anything, and it includes the views of the industry," Zokwana explained.

The Minister said the department will also fast track the development of the country's own vaccine. Funding has been made available by Treasury and tests have already been done, the Minister said.

He also assured South Africans that it is safe to eat meat.

"It is safe to consume beef and there's no fear of anybody who consumes it that they will be putting their life at risk."

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