Avatar photo

By Faizel Patel

Senior Digital Journalist


Eastern Cape farms in quarantine after outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease

Three farms have tested positive for foot-and-mouth disease.


The Department of Agriculture has confirmed that farms in the Eastern Cape near Humansdorp have been placed into precautionary quarantine to contain an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD).

The department said three farms have tested positive for the disease in the province.

Department spokesperson Reggie Ngcobo said the SAT3 virus responsible for the outbreak on the index farm is almost identical to the virus that caused the widespread FMD outbreaks in 2021 and 2022 in Limpopo, North West, Free State, Gauteng and Mpumalanga.

Quarantine

“The Eastern Cape Provincial Veterinary Services placed the index farm under quarantine and a full epidemiological investigation has commenced to identify the possible origin and any other properties that could be at risk. 

“Immediate neighbours and all linked locations are placed under precautionary quarantine, pending clinical and serological investigation to determine their FMD status,” Ngcobo said.

ALSO READ: Lobola negotiations affected as cattle movement banned to stop spread of foot and mouth disease

Ngcobo added that the recent outbreaks again put the spotlight on the importance of biosecurity on farms.

“Farmers are advised to not allow animals onto the farm without a health clearance from a veterinarian at origin of the animals. Even if animals appear to be healthy, they can be in the early stages of infection (incubation period) where they are shedding virus without showing clinical signs of disease yet.

“As prescribed by the Minister of Agriculture in September 2022, all cattle, sheep and goats newly brought onto a farm must be kept separated from the resident herds for at least 28 days,” Ngcobo said.  

Controls

Ngcobo said while the disease has been confirmed on three farms,  area-wide movement controls were not being implemented at this stage.

“Regarding the recent calls for area wide movement restrictions, the decision to implement movement controls in large areas is not taken lightly as they tend to be highly disruptive to industry as a whole by impacting not only those whose animals affected but also innocent bystanders and must be duly gazetted

“In the meantime, all properties where the disease has been confirmed, as well as farms in the 10km radius, have been placed under quarantine.  No susceptible animals (Cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and cloven hooved game) are allowed onto move into, out of and through these farms,” Ngcobo said.

Can foot-and-mouth disease spread to humans?   

FMD is categorised as a state-controlled disease due to its potential to inflict substantial economic losses and disrupt agricultural activities

The disease is a highly contagious illness affecting animals with cloven hooves such as cattle, swine and sheep. It causes fever symptoms and blister-like sores in the mouths and on the feet of livestock.

According to the World Organisation for Animal Health, foot-and-mouth disease is a severe, contagious viral disease of livestock.

Although it is not readily transmissible to humans and is not a public health risk, it can have a negative impact on farmers as it can disrupt the production of livestock.

Government has previously implemented restrictions on the movement of animals during outbreaks. During this time, it is illegal to move cloven-hoofed animals and their products without permission from the state veterinary services.

ALSO READ: Foot and mouth grips part of SA, but does it affect humans?