Foot-and-mouth disease remains concern for Western Cape Government

A recent outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in the Humansdorp area of the Eastern Cape, approximately 100km from the Western Cape border, has raised concerns with Western Cape Government veterinary services, who are urging producers to ‘remain vigilant’.

This is according to a recent media statement issued by the Western Cape Government.

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The recent outbreak in Eastern Cape ‘underscores how rapidly FMD can be transmitted’, as the disease spread from ‘the restricted zone surrounding the Kruger National Park’ in 2022, according to the statement. This has been attributed to unlawful animal movements and auctions.

Most of the reported outbreaks in the country are contained, but those recently reported in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape remain unresolved.

What is FMD?

FMD is a highly contagious viral disease that infects cloven-hoofed animals, such as cattle, sheep, goats and pigs. The current outbreak has been affecting cattle and buffalo.

The FMD virus causes painful blisters in the mouth that can lead to a loss of appetite and excessive salivation. The skin around the claws can also become ulcerated, red and swollen, that results in lameness.

The disease has an incubation period of two weeks from when the animal becomes infected until it shows clinical signs. During this period, animals can appear normal and healthy, but in reality, can silently spread the disease. It is for this reason that no movement of animals can be considered safe without a 28-day quarantine period.

Prevention of contamination

Notably, the Western Cape remains FMD-free, with all livestock owners being urged to continue to only purchase animals from reliable sources and not from any affected provinces.

The WC Government has further stated that a veterinary certificate should accompany the animals, with a private veterinarian indicating on the certificate that the disease does not ‘occur in the area of origin and that the animals are clinically healthy’.

Animals must then be kept in an isolation period for at least four weeks at the farms to which they have been transported before they become integrated with the rest of the herd.

It has also been recommended that buying animals at an auction remains very risky and is therefore not advised.

‘Animal transport vehicles and feed can also be a source of FMD virus. Vehicles should be cleaned and disinfected after animals are unloaded and before they are allowed to enter a property that keeps livestock. Feed, especially hay, should only be bought from known sources and areas free of infection,’ the statement read.

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Picture: Lulama Zenzile / Die Burger / Gallo Images

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