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Anthrax fight, South Africa steps in

by Lesotho Times
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Bereng Mpaki

AFTER banning the importation of live animals and related products from Lesotho, South Africa has now offered to supply Lesotho with anthrax vaccine and personnel to help in administering the drug.

This was revealed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security’s Director General of Veterinary Services in the Department of Livestock, Relebohile Mahloane this week.

South Africa imposed the ban following an outbreak of anthrax in Lesotho which was discovered on May 12 and has so far killed 24 cattle.

Lesotho Wool Centre (LWC) spokesperson, Manama Letsie, recently said they were stuck with M30 million worth of wool and mohair following the ban by South Africa.

Mr Letsie said the LWC had 19 shipping containers of fibre containing 2000 bales of wool and mohair worth M30 million which were turned away by South African authorities last week after the ban.

Anthrax is caused by a type of bacteria called bacillus anthracis which can be found in the soil and commonly affects domestic and wild animals around the world. Humans most commonly contract anthrax through contact with infected animals or animal products such as meat.

The disease, which has been reported in Ha-Tseka, Ha-Au and Ha-Teko in Maseru, has also affected 24 people among them 11 children since it was first reported.

And on Monday, Dr Mahloane said Lesotho enjoys cordial relations with South Africa and that has helped them in the past to fight animal diseases.

“We enjoy warm relations with South Africa and yesterday, I received a call from the director of animal health in South Africa, Dr Mpho Maja, who offered to help us with 100 000 doses of anthrax vaccine and they will also supply us with personnel to help with administering the drug,” Dr Mahloane said.

“This is what we call good relations but unfortunately, there are persons who seem bent on destroying these good relations who are spreading false information about the country’s anthrax situation.”

He said they are happy to receive assistance from South Africa, which has in the past helped in joint vaccination campaigns against rabies.

Dr Mahloane further said this week his office will be focusing on vaccinating animals in the affected areas namely Ha-Tseka, Ha-Au and Ha-Teko using vaccines supplied with the help of the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations.

They are also planning to extend the vaccination campaign to the rest of the Maseru district through the help of South Africa. The vaccination campaign will then extend to the anthrax belt, which covers Berea, Mohale’s Hoek, Mafeteng and Maseru. The rest of the country’s districts will follow afterwards.

He said the vaccination campaigns are organised every year but Basotho farmers are reluctant to bring their animals for vaccination, especially whenever there are no reported outbreaks.

“Basotho farmers are unresponsive to these campaigns and will only bring their animals when they hear of an outbreak. This is a concern to us because to organise the campaigns, there are a lot of resources that are invested.”

Meanwhile, Dr Mahloane advised the LWC to sterilise its wool storage facilities to ensure that this season’s fresh fibre is not contaminated ahead of the new auction season.

The wool centre is in the process of clearing the remainder of last season’s stock of wool and mohair in its storage facilities in preparation for the next season’s auction.

“We will not be expecting the centre to receive fibre from within 10 kilometres of the affected areas because one of the requirements of the veterinary permits is to state that the product is not from an area under veterinary restriction.

“Also, this area (Thaba Bosiu) does not fall within the 10 kilometre radius of the affected areas, therefore it is safe. And as along as the product does not pass via these restricted areas, it will be considered safe.

“But we will advise the centre to decontaminate its storage so that a fresh product can come in. If the sealed returned bales are fit to go to the international markets, it is safe to be unloaded back into the storage.

“To decontaminate this area is just a security measure to ensure that whatever remnants of the disease could be lingering are taken care of.”

Dr Mahloane also said that farmers will have to apply for fresh International Veterinary Certificate for Export (veterinary permits) for their fabric when South Africa eventually lifts the ban. He added however that Lesotho will first have to lift its self-imposed before South Africa can follow suit.

“When a country’s disease status changes, automatically it renders the permit invalid, so farmers will have to re-apply for the permits for this product.”

He said going forward his office will be monitoring the situation on the ground and be compiling weekly reports to the World Organisation for Animal Health on the status of the outbreak, while also updating South Africa.

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