Foot and mouth disease ravages Masvingo herd

Movement of cattle from Bikita, Zaka, Chiredzi and Mwenezi districts is now restricted due to an outbreak of the foot and mouth disease in most parts of Masvingo province.

Sources in the department of veterinary services said the hardest hit districts were Bikita, Zaka and Chiredzi with Bikita having the highest number of reports. The veterinary officer, who refused to be named, said Bikita and Chiredzi were more vulnerable to foot and mouth virus infection due to their closeness to the giant Save Valley Conservancy. The conservancy is home to buffalo, which harbour the foot and mouth virus.

The resettled farmers in and next to the conservancy are the worst casualties of this highly infectious disease. The source said cattle trade and movement within the province was now restricted until affected areas were declared clear of the disease.

“No cattle movement to and outside Bikita, Zaka, Chiredzi and Mwenezi or any other part of the province will be allowed until the affected areas are freed of the virus, at least three months after the last reported case,” said the veterinary officer.

Masvingo province has more than a million cattle and the affected districts contain close to 50 per cent of the total herd. Foot and mouth disease causes feeding difficulties and is identified by sores on the hooves and mouth. Animals with the disease tend to foam at the mouth.

The veterinary department has been struggling to control the disease due to lack of government funding. The disease is also difficult to contain because of illegal cattle movements.

“Some people are using police clearance certificates to move cattle, yet the cattle movement permit is the only legal document. We have alerted the police to arrest anyone who is seen moving cattle from one point to another,” said the veterinary officer.

The veterinary department has vaccinated cattle close to the Save Valley twice this year so far. The law stipulates vaccinations four times a year.

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