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Government Implements Measures to Safeguard FMD Free Zone Status

14 January 2015

SOUTH AFRICA - The Government will vigorously implement key control measures to safeguard the Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) free zone status in the country, said the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana.

Briefing reporters on the status of FMD in the country in Pretoria, Minister Zokwana said the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) FMD free zone status enhances international trade for the country’s agricultural produce.

“There is an urgent need of cooperation and collaboration between government departments, the livestock industry, farming communities, traders of livestock, game and their products as well as the public at large in ensuring that the FMD controls to prevent the introduction and the spread of this disease are implemented and adhered to.

“The department is vigorously implementing what we have termed ‘Operation Compliance’ in ensuring that the marching orders, as determined by the OIE, are met and adhered to,” he said.

FMD is one of the most contagious animal diseases and causes deaths mainly in young animals through inflammation of the heart muscle.

Minister Zokwana said the maintenance of the FMD free zone status of the country requires the implementation of critical control measures to prevent the introduction of the FMD virus from the infected zones into the free zone, which is the rest of South Africa.

The Minister said the infected and protection zones are only found in the demarcated areas of Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal provinces.

Key FMD control measures are:

  • Intensified disease surveillance at the farm or dip tank level;
  • Strict and controlled movements of livestock, game and livestock products within and in between different FMD zones linked to animal identification;
  • Adequate vaccination of cattle against FMD in the designated areas; and
  • Implementation of effective livestock identification and traceability system and efficient international border fence maintenance and patrols, particularly the borders of countries with a different FMD status.

However, Minister Zokwana further announced eight more areas that need immediate attention. These include the:

  • Improvement of the structure and inspection of the border fence with Zimbabwe;
  • Ensuring that a clear separation exists between the border of the free zone and the protection zone;
  • Addressing FMD vaccine availability and ensuring sustainable vaccine coverage; and
  • Separating animals and their products that originate from the FMD protection zones from those originating from the free zone at abattoirs.

Disease control

Currently, South Africa is recognised by the OIE as a country with a zone free of FMD without vaccination.

Although FMD is not a deadly disease, it can cause severe production losses and once introduced into susceptible animal herd, it becomes very difficult and costly to control or eliminate.

People can be infected through skin wounds or the mucous membranes in the mouth by handling diseased stock, handling the virus in the laboratory or by drinking infected milk, but not by eating meat from infected animals.

However, infection of humans is temporary and mild and FMD is not considered a public health problem.

FMD is endemic in parts of Asia, Africa, the Middle East and South America with sporadic outbreaks in free areas.

An outbreak of FMD in the free zone has serious economic implications due to an immediate embargo on all exports of livestock and livestock products to trading partners.

TheCattleSite News Desk

Top image via Shutterstock

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