Rwanda has banned the importation of a wide range of meat, dairy products, vegetables and fruit products from South Africa (SA) following the outbreak of listeriosis, a food-borne viral disease that causes fever, muscle aches and diarrhoea among other gastro-intestinal symptoms.
The disease has infected over 500 people and killed 41 out of a confirmed 70 cases since its outbreak in SA over a month ago. It is caused by bacteria that is found in soil, water and vegetation.
In a statement, Agriculture and Animal Resources Minister Geraldine Mukeshimana said the decision to ban imports from SA was meant to protect public and animal health in Rwanda.
“Meat, milk and dairy products, vegetables and fruits imported from SA are effectively banned until the listeriosis is contained. Farmers and veterinary doctors are advised to quickly report domestic animals that shows signs of listeriosis to the Rwanda Agriculture Board for urgent diagnosis and treatment,” Mukeshimana said.
In humans, listeriosis affects mainly pregnant women, newborn babies, the elderly and adults with compromised immune systems. It is also a mass killer of livestock, with most cattle suffering brain infections.
Rwandan hotels, which import at least 2.4 tons of beef from SA per month, will be hardest hit by the trade ban. The East African country also imports up to 60 tons of fruits that include oranges, apples, kiwis, pears and grapes annually from SA.
Also read: Livestock production: Listeriosis in animals
BOTSWANA CITIZENS URGED TO MAINTAIN HYGIENE IN SA
Meanwhile, Botswana has issued a public health advisory warning citizens who may visit SA to “take all necessary precautions” against contracting the disease. Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health Dr. Haruna Baba Jibril said the government is monitoring the outbreak in SA.
“The Ministry of Health and Wellness advises all travelers to SA to take all necessary precautions, such as eating hygienically prepared, properly packed and well-prepared food and maximise on their personal hygiene during feeding,” Jibril said.
Botswana, which banned a wide range of agricultural produce imports from SA last month, has not hinted at a meat ban. The restricted SA agricultural imports list was expanded last week to cover nearly all farm-fresh horticultural products.
NAMIBIA URGES CAUTION
In Namibia, the Chief Veterinary Officer of the Ministry of Agriculture Milton Masheke said the country will not ban SA agricultural imports because it has adequate laboratory systems in place to pre-test imports and detect the disease.
He said Namibians should therefore not worry about possible contamination. However, health experts have advised the government to take pro-active measures amid expectations that large numbers of South African tourists will visit Namibia during the Christmas and New Year holidays.