21 September 2023
By: Amelia Genis
South Africa can once again be declared a foot-and-mouth-free zone, provided all stakeholders play their part.
This entails farmers applying biosecurity measures, the state efficiently managing vaccinations, and all parties working together to develop and sustain solutions to problems, says Marzanne Roets, coordinator of the National Animal Health Forum (NAHF).
“I believe agriculture is a resilient sector that has had to overcome many obstacles,” she says. “The NAHF believes that if we stand together, as we always do in all agricultural industries, we can definitely regain our status as a foot-and-mouth-free zone. We’ve done it in the past.”
Last case in May
According to the latest report from the animal health directorate in the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, the most recent reported case of the disease was in KwaZulu-Natal on 23 May.
Reggie Ngcobo, spokesperson for the department, says no new cases have been reported since then.
Working to declare outbreaks over
The road to a disease-free status is long and full of obstacles, but the government and the NAHF are collaborating in a technical task team.
They are working on the plan outlined by the government to declare the outbreak over with the cooperation of the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH), says Roets, then to apply for the status of being foot-and-mouth-free.
“Once all cases have been dealt with, a sustainable management strategy for foot-and-mouth disease can be developed. Planning and preparation are already under way, after which we can announce the implementation of a sustainable plan,” she says.
“This includes a marketing strategy, maintaining relevant borders, the availability of vaccines and a national system for animal identification.”
Roets says it will require a lot of cooperation to ensure the plans are sustainable. “Teams will need to be appointed to conduct national and provincial inspections and audits of the sustainable operation of the management strategy.
“After that, as in 2001 and 2014, a national survey will need to be conducted to prove that the country is free of the disease.”
Only when this happens will an application for an official declaration of foot-and-mouth-free status be submitted to the WOAH. The organisation usually sends a team to conduct its own audit.
It may sound daunting to livestock owners, but biosecurity is the only thing that prevents any disease from spreading and harming their businesses, says Roets.
“When farmers purchase new livestock, they must take precautions by keeping the herd separate from their other livestock. Livestock owners and their workers must keep an eye on the animals, and if they notice any signs of disease they should contact the local state veterinarian to prevent it from spreading to other livestock or neighbouring livestock.”
Roets says the state is systematically closing cases in the current outbreak in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Gauteng, the Free State, North West and Mpumalanga by monitoring vaccinated livestock through controlled slaughter. A total of 634 000 animals have been vaccinated.
The state is responsible for paying for the vaccinations and tests conducted. Only state veterinarians are allowed to vaccinate for foot-and-mouth because it is a controlled disease.