Foot-and-mouth hits Gwanda

Gwanda has been hit by an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease following an incident where cattle in the area mixed with buffaloes, NewsDay has learnt.

The outbreak was reported on Tuesday leading to the veterinary department in the Matabeleland South capital announcing a “high surveillance” of the affected areas.

Dr Msongelwa Mangena, the provincial veterinary officer, told NewsDay the absence of fences to demarcate farms had led to domestic animals mixing with animals such as buffaloes and getting the disease.

“The absence of boundary fences has made our work very difficult. One beast can move from Gwanda right up to Plumtree. If it is infected, it will mix with uninfected cattle, thereby spreading the disease,” he said.

He said the most affected areas were farms surrounding Gwanda town, the Tuli-Magwe area, as well as Guyu.

Mangena said the veterinary department had already started vaccinating cattle in the affected areas but said the militating factor was the high cost involved.

“It costs more than a dollar per beast to vaccinate. Some farmers may find this a bit prohibitive,” he said.
Mangena said two buffaloes had been spotted near the Mtshabezi River on Sunday.

“The problem is that buffaloes are highly mobile so if we get a report, by the time the hunter gets to the area, the animals would have left. Again the problem of boundary fences comes into the picture because it is difficult to confine them to one farm,” he said.

Mangena said farmers should report cases of infection early so that the department could move into the area and report once they spotted a buffalo. He also said farmers should desist from moving cattle to other areas without permits.

“Farmers should also inspect their cattle daily for signs that include mouth ulcers and blisters on hooves,” he said, adding that the department hoped to have contained the disease within the next 18 months.

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