Special committee to look into mysterious livestock abortions

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Staff Reporter

Windhoek-A special committee comprising government and private veterinarians has been established investigate mysterious abortions among livestock.

Hundreds of abortions among Namibian livestock, especially in the Khomas Region, have been experienced lately. The committee is tasked with coming up with measures to prevent the spread of the outbreak and getting better insight into the causes.

The deadly virus – said to be of an unknown strand – has also resulted in veterinarians and officials now visiting selected farms to get more information about the outbreak and to urgently seek measures to halt the killer-disease in its tracks.

The unprecedented abortions causing cattle losses of up to 85 percent in the central and eastern areas of Khomas Region, as well as in the regions of Omaheke and Otjozondjupa, was last week declared a national concern by the Namibian Agricultural Union (NAU) and various private veterinarians when they issued all members with a questionnaire.

The Namibian National Farmers Union (NNFU) followed suit, and requested all farmers to complete the questionnaire and return it to the NNFU.

State veterinarian Dr John Shoopala denies accusations from some concerned farmers that the government does not have enough foot soldiers to combat the disease and also not enough scientific effort has been injected into determining the cause of the outbreak.

He said reports of abortions came from various farms while most cases originated in the Khomas Region. Incidents have also been reported in Omaheke and Otjizondjupa regions. Numerous samples have now been submitted to the Windhoek Central Veterinary Laboratory (CVL), as well as to Onderstepoort and Path Care in the Cape Province in South Africa and research is ongoing after only the bacterium Enterococcus Casseliflavus was identified originally.
Dr Shoopala says whilst the newly formed committee is busy on a 24/7 basis, farmers are advised to immediately report any case of abortion to the nearest state veterinarian, to access professional advice and action on treatment, sample collection and control measures.

“Isolate the aborting animals from the pregnant ones and remove all infected tissues as a matter of urgency and clean as well as disinfect the surrounding areas,” he advised.

Farmers taking samples themselves must keep aborted fetuses and placenta cool by packing them in iced/freeze packs for delivery to the nearest state veterinarian or central veterinary office. Farmers must wear gloves when coming in contact with abortion materials and must ensure their hands and any equipment are clean and disinfected.

Dr Shoopala says as part of sound farm management practices, farmers must always monitor pregnant animals for signs of abortion and then isolate animals showing signs of abortions. Losses due to abortion range between 40 and 85 percent in the areas hardest hit.

Although most of the abortions reported took place between 3-6 months, there were also reports of older calves aborted. It seems the symptoms vary, but one common symptom is a high fever of the cow shortly before aborting.
The information derived from the questionnaires will be used to determine similarities between the situations of the affected producers.

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