BY RICHARD MUPONDE
A NEWCASTLE disease outbreak has hit Bulilima district, Matabeleland South province, leaving villagers counting heavy losses of their chickens.
The epicentre of the disease was reported to be village 20 in Dombodema, where thousands of birds reportedly died over the past few days.
The Department of Veterinary Services has quarantined the area and imposed strict restrictions on the movement of poultry in the district.
Bulilima district Agritex officer, Peter Masoja confirmed this yesterday saying efforts were underway to contain the outbreak.
“Department of Veterinary Services Bulilima has just received a message that there is a serious outbreak of Newcastle disease in village 20, Dombodema,” Masoja said.
A source on the ground, Martha Ncube said villagers were in panic and were puzzled by the behaviour of their chickens and the sudden deaths.
“This is the first time the disease has been detected in the district. Villagers were left panicking and have sent an SOS to the vet department to help them before they lose all their birds,” Ncube said.
Newcastle disease is an infection of domestic poultry and other bird species with virulent Newcastle disease virus (NDV).
It is a worldwide problem that presents primarily as an acute respiratory disease, but depression, nervous manifestations, or diarrhoea may be the predominant clinical form.
The disease is contagious, affecting many domestic and wild avian species.
It was first identified in Java, Indonesia, in 1926, and in 1927 in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England (where it got its name).
However, it may have been prevalent as early as 1898, when a disease wiped out all the domestic fowl in northwest Scotland.
Its effects are most notable in domestic poultry due to their high susceptibility. It is endemic to many countries.
Exposure of humans to infected birds (for example in poultry processing plants) can cause mild conjunctivitis and influenza-like symptoms, but the Newcastle disease virus (NDV) otherwise poses no hazard to human health.
Interest in the use of NDV as an anticancer agent has arisen from the ability of NDV to selectively kill human tumour cells with limited toxicity to normal cells.
No treatment for NDV exists, but the use of prophylactic vaccines and sanitary measures reduces the likelihood of outbreaks.