Authorities are fighting tooth and nail to contain the spread of the deadly foot and mouth disease that threatens to wipe out livestock in Eastern province District of Nyagatare.
Speaking to Rwanda Today, Ndayisenga Fabrice, the head of department animal resources research and technology transfer at Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB), confirmed the outbreak, saying it could have entered the country when sick animals crossed the border from Uganda.
“Food and mouth disease was first identified in one of the farms in Musheri sector in Nyagatare District, we have isolated that farm, we are spraying and vaccinating all animals around border communities of Tabagwe, Musheri and Matimba to contain spreading, as investigations continue,” said Mr Ndayisenga
Farmers in the affected areas, however, complain that the aggressive approach taken by authorities, among them stopping milk supply chain and slaughtering all animals suspected to have been infected, have unnecessarily exposed them to untold losses.
Mr Ndayisenga said government offcials had no other option but moving fast to introduce tough measures meant to control the spread to other parts of the country.
“We don’t treat foot and mouth disease, and that is the policy. We have slaughtered up to 49 animals found to be having clinical signs of the disease, of course the farmers are not happy but that’s what we had to do to control further spread into other parts of the country."
“We have also stopped all milk from Musheri as part of the disease control measures,” he said Habumugisha Jean Pierre, a veterinary officer in Musheri sector, said since the outbreak of the disease a few weeks ago, milk supply chain has been suspended, and no one is selling milk, which has put farmers' livelihoods in jeopardy.
“No co-operative or individual farmer is selling milk now yet many peoples livelihoods in this livestock hotspot depend on milk, they say anything from an infected cow can spread the disease,” he noted.
Mr Ndayisenga, however, said milk from an infected animal or its meat pose no health hazard to people, and that both can be consumed especially after thoroughly boiling and cooking the milk and meat respectively.
“Foot and Mouth Disease poses no health hazard to people as the meat and milk can be consumed especially after cooking to kill the virus. The meat from the cows slaughtered is sold in the market and the little money that comes out goes back to the owners of the cows”.
Foot and Mouth disease is a severe, highly contagious viral disease that attacks cattle, swine, sheep, goats and other cloven-hoofed ruminants.
It is trans boundary animal diseases that deeply affects production of livestock and can greatly disrupt regional and international trade in animals and animal products. The disease is estimated to circulate in 77 percent of the global livestock population in Africa, the Middle East and Asia as well as South America.
In Uganda, where the disease came from, dubious traders have been reported to sell counterfeit FMD vaccines, with some currently in police custody in Kampala, according to the Uganda National Drug Authority (NDA).
In Uganda the vaccines which are currently being imported solely by the government and the free distribution is done through the district veterinary officers to affected farmers in areas that are experiencing disease outbreak.
However, farmers have repeatedly decried the vaccine shortage, which exposed them to the errant dealers who were found in possession of over 20,000 doses worth more than Shs100m of impure and counterfeited FMD vaccines.
The outbreak in Rwanda comes at a time when the country is still battling Rift Valley Fever, which broke out two months ago.