The minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development, Thoko Didiza, announced that the country is currently battling 56 outbreak cases of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), involving farms and communal areas in the Free State, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), Limpopo, North West and Gauteng.
Despite these outbreaks, the government is working hard to address the situation. The minister would like to emphasise that maximum co-operation from all stakeholders in the sector is necessary to achieve control of the outbreaks. “It is important that everyone commits and respects all imposed control measures and collectively find a sustainable solution,” said Didiza.
The outbreaks currently troubling South Africa (SA) were caused by illegal movements of animals out of the FMD controlled zones in Limpopo. Although SA lost its World Organisation for Animal Health recognised FMD-free zone status in 2019, the permanent movement restrictions remain in place in the FMD protection zones in Limpopo and Mpumalanga. It remains illegal to move cloven-hoofed animals and their products out of the FMD protection zone without permission from the state veterinary services.
“I call on all citizens of SA to stop the illegal movement of animals out of FMD affected areas. The damage caused by continued FMD outbreaks has a severe negative impact on the economy of the country, as well as the individual animal owners. I am pleased that a 49-year-old male was arrested at Masisi in the Vhembe District of Limpopo for bringing goats from the FMD controlled zone into the FMD free zone and the law has taken its course.
“Another case, where animals were illegally moved from an FMD controlled area to auctions in two provinces is being investigated. We warn perpetrators who are illegally moving animals that they will be prosecuted for contravention of the Animal Diseases Act (Act 35 of 1984).”
Laboratory testing confirmed the outbreak of FMD between Potchefstroom and Ventersdorp in the North West. Disease investigations carried out by the North West Provincial Veterinary Services found that the FMD virus had spread to adjacent farms within a 10km radius.
FMD positive farms were also detected in Gauteng and the Free State through tracing forward from an auction near Potchefstroom, which took place in March 2022, and from direct sales from infected farms before the infections were detected. There are currently seven positive farms linked to this outbreak event, involving five farms in North West, one farm in Gauteng, and one in the Free State.
In Thulamela District, Limpopo, further FMD-infected dip tanks were identified in a previously FMD-free area to the north of the disease management area, which was declared as such in 2019. The affected area comprises communal grazing land. Further analysis confirmed that the same SAT3 virus is responsible for the outbreaks in the Free State, North West and Gauteng.
In two separate incidents in April 2022, animals that originated from the vaccinated part of the FMD protection zone in Limpopo were found at two separate auctions. These auctions were stopped, and the premises were placed under quarantine.
In KZN, a further two FMD-positive dip tanks were found in the Big 5 Hlabisa and Jozini municipalities. After the disease initially seemed to be under control in the disease management area, which was declared in September 2021, subsequent illegal movement of animals led to the disease breaching the disease management area, one case being the result of the movement of cattle for a lobola ritual. A total of 43 dip tanks have become infected in this area since the disease was first diagnosed in May 2021.
All affected farms, dip tanks and other premises in the five affected provinces were placed under quarantine and no cloven-hoofed animals are allowed to move from these locations. There has been no change in the movement restrictions on cloven-hoofed animals, their products and genetic material out of, into, within or through the disease management areas, which are still in effect in KZN and Limpopo. The margins of the two disease management areas are being considered to include the newly affected areas and other areas at high risk, owing to the uncontrolled mingling of animals. Culling, like all control measures, will be considered on a case-by-case basis, considering the practicality, costs, advantage and disadvantage of each scenario.
The FMD vaccination campaigns in Limpopo and KZN are still ongoing in the areas where there is active virus circulation and where the animals are not fenced in to effectively prevent comingling. However, the use of the FMD vaccine is strictly controlled by state veterinary services and the vaccine is not available for sale to the public.
The FMD vaccine can only be used in pre-authorised areas after the risks have been weighed. The department has become aware of companies advertising the sale of FMD vaccines and wishes to make it clear that the sale or use of such vaccines is illegal.