Botswana Confirms Disease Breakout

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Samples taken to the laboratory for testing on foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in the far eastern parts of Botswana have confirmed positive results of the disease in close to 400 herds of cattle. Botswana’s High Commissioner to Namibia Norman Moleboge confirmed this last Friday, adding that his government has taken stringent measures to ensure the disease does not spread from Bobonong Extension Area or Zone 7, as it is commonly known. Unlike in the past when areas that would be declared affected by the disease would have all their animals killed before being restocked with disease-free beasts, Botswana this time has resorted to vaccinating all the 120 000 animals in this zone on the advice of veterinary experts. This decision, according to Moleboge, was taken based on questions raised in the past as to what guarantee would there be that once animals are killed and farms are restocked, the disease would not re-surface. However, animals in this area would not be sent for slaughter at any abattoir. All other areas that fall in the vicinity of Zone 7 would not be selling cattle to the European Union market though they would be able to slaughter and sell within their zones. ‘The government has decided …all cattle in Zone 7 be immediately vaccinated for foot-and-mouth disease,” he stated. Though the infected area has a fence, it has also been decided that a 2.4 meter high fence be constructed around zone 7 to compartmentilise the whole zone. This would prevent any animals, including wild animals that are potential carriers of the disease, from jumping over the short fence. Considering that zone 7 is vast, a double fence of about 80 kilometres will be erected between Dikgatlhong and Foley to close the gap between zone 7 and 6 Francistown. Once the two vaccination exercises, that will cost the Botswana government about 15 million pula (N$17 052 229) is complete, any FMD vaccinated animal found outside zone 7and any wild stray cattle found within the zone and not vaccinated during the first two rounds of the exercise would be destroyed without any compensation to prevent repeated outbreaks. Further, all feral or free ranging pigs within the quarantined zone will be destroyed without compensation as pigs can spread the disease ten times faster than any other animal, Moleboge indicated. The source of infection has not yet been determined but speculation is that it may have originated from neighbouring Zimbabwe as the type or class of the disease is similar to the type of FMD that broke out in 2002-2003 near Matsiloje where Botswana shares the border with Zimbabwe. Moleboge added there have been incidences where the Tswana people would steal cattle from neighbou-ring Zimbabwe. Last week, Director of Veterinarian Services in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, Dr Otto HÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¼bschle, reassured Nami-bian farmers not to panic despite the outbreak of the disease in Botswana, indicating that the area where the disease is found is way too far from the Namibian borders. He said Botswana has taken standard measures in line with international regulations. HÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¼bschle added that veterinarian officials are at border posts inspecting and ensuring that people do not bring any meat or meat products into Namibia from Botswana to prevent the disease from being imported. Although Namibia does not import meat from Botswana, precautionary measures have to be taken, as travellers into Namibia are likely to bring back animals, meat and meat products for their own consumption and use. Moleboge appealed to Namibians who might visit Botswana to be patient as there are many roadblocks especially in the areas where FMD has been declared. This, he said, is being done for the purposes of containing the disease.