Livestock farmers in the Eastern Province are counting losses from a recent outbreak of foot and mouth disease that has affected at least 16 farms.
Rwanda Today has learnt affected areas include Cyamunyana and Kirebe, in Rwimiyaga sector in Nyagatare district. Speaking to Rwanda Today, Fabrice Ndayisenga, the head of department of animal resources research and technology transfer at Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) said the outbreak is now localized in 16 farms but they are working to control it.
“Since the breakout, we have vaccinated more than 43,000 heads of cattle. The disease was detected in 206 animals which were slaughtered. Efforts continue to ensure that it doesn’t spread to other places” said Ndayisenga.
He said they have also established a footbath in Rwimiyaga to help disinfect the animals while there is a quarantine on movement and slaughter of cattle in areas where the disease has been detected.
“We sample every day. Up to 1,500 samples have so far been taken,” he added. Ndayisaba traces the current foot and mouth disease outbreak to porous borders that enabled farmers to illegally move cattle between Rwanda and a neighbouring country.
The difficulty in enforcement of illegal animal movements between Tanzania and Rwanda or Rwanda and Uganda has turned farming Eastern province districts, especially Nyagatare, into animal disease hotspots.
Previous outbreaks of the disease were reported in places like Musheri, Tabagwe and Matimba, and led to vaccination and spraying of all animals around all border communities.
Like the current outbreak, these were blamed on unchecked movement of infected cattle by farmers from Uganda to Rwanda.
Farmers in the affected areas have in the past faulted authorities about the aggressive approach taken, among them stopping milk supply and slaughtering all animals suspected to have been infected, which they said unnecessarily exposed them to untold losses.
The policy is that government does not treat foot and mouth disease. Every animal found to be infected is slaughtered, so far up to 206 animals have been slaughtered. The only upside is that meat of animals infected by foot and mouth disease can be eaten by people, and pose no public health hazard like meat of animals infected with let’s say Rift Valley fever.
“It is difficult to control this illegal movement of cattle. We do night patrols and try to enforce animal movement policies in place but they still move animals through the porous borders”, observed Ndayisaba.
He noted that they are also continuing with the implementation of measures to control the Rift Valley fever through vaccinations and testing since its recent outbreak last year.
According to the World Organisation for Animal health, foot and mouth disease (FMD) is a severe, highly contagious viral disease of livestock that has a significant economic impact.
The disease affects cattle, swine, sheep, goats and other cloven-hoofed ruminants. It is a transboundary animal disease that deeply affect the production of livestock and disrupting 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 in a limited area of South America.
The typical clinical sign is the occurrence of blisters (or vesicles) on the nose, tongue or lips, inside the oral cavity, between the toes, above the hooves, on the teats and at pressure points on the skin. Ruptured blisters can result in extreme lameness and reluctance to move or eat.