Livestock farmers on high alert over diseases outbreak

A veterinary doctor inspects cattle on the farm. 

What you need to know:

  • The lumpy skin disease has spread in the sub-counties of Bumbo, Bukokho, Buwatuwa, Lwakhakha, Tsekululu, Mukoto and Bukhabusi in Namisindwa District. 

Livestock farmers and veterinary officers in cattle corridor districts are on high alert following an outbreak of black quarter and lumpy skin diseases in the districts of Lyantonde and Namisindwa.
The black quarter is an infectious bacterial disease visible through loss of animal body energy and swollen limbs, resulting in lameness and high body temperature.  The disease usually affects cattle, sheep, and goats. It always kills infected animals faster. 

On the other hand, lumpy skin is a viral disease caused by a virus called pox virus that affects cattle. It is transmitted by blood-feeding birds and insects such as mosquitoes and ticks.

Animals affected by the cattle lumpy  skin disease present signs and symptoms such as fever, nodules on the skin and can also lead to death, especially in animals that have not previously been exposed to the virus.
The cattle corridor covers several districts of Isingiro, Kiruhura, Mbarara, Sembabule, Gomba, Kyankwanzi, Kiboga, Luweero, Nakaseke and Nakasongola. Other sub-regions include Teso, Elgon and Karamoja.

In Lyantonde District, the black quarter disease has so far claimed 54 head of cattle. The most hit sub-counties are Kinuuka, Kashagama and Lyakajura.
To prevent the further spread, Dr Ronald Bameka, the Lyantonde District veterinary officer, said the infected animal has to be buried.
“If a cow dies of this disease (black quarter), it should be immediately buried because it is very dangerous for human consumption. The only way to stop and control the spread of this disease is burying the dead animals, coupled with vaccination, which we are currently doing,” he said at the weekend.  

Dr Bameka added that they are currently encouraging farmers to use Blanthrax vaccines to vaccinate their livestock.
“We have so far vaccinated 10,000 head of cattle and we expect more vaccines this month to handle the second phase,” he said. 
Mr Fred Makuza, a farmer in Kashagama Sub-county, said by the time the disease was detected, it was possible that it had already spread among many livestock.

“The challenge we have is that these animals are transported from one place to another every day. If government doesn’t help us by carrying out a quick comprehensive vaccination exercise, the disease may wipe out many animals in different cattle-keeping districts,” he said.  
Dr Burhan Kasozi, the Isingiro District veterinary officer, said black quarter disease has not yet been reported in the area, but since they are neighbouring Lyantonde, there is a reason to worry.

“In case the disease strikes, my team has the capacity to contain it,” he said. 
In Mbarara District, Dr Andrew Akashaba, who is the district veterinary officer, said: “We have the vaccines to give farmers in case of an outbreak. And we have been sensitising them (farmers) about how black quarter spreads.”

Mr Ashaba Beinomugisha, a farmer in  Kyakabunga Village, Kiruhura District, said some farmers link some of these livestock diseases to witchcraft, thus frustrating efforts to fight them.
“We lack enough sensitisation and awareness on some of those diseases to the extent that some farmers attach them to witchcraft. Let professionals go on ground and sensitise local farmers to change from the traditional way of doing things. Right now, I can’t tell you whether the outbreak is there or not,” he said. 

In the districts of Nakasongola and Nakaseke, local authorities said they have not registered any single case of either black quarter or lumpy skin, but that they have always encouraged farmers to report any suspicious disease at their respective farms. 
Mr Sam Kigula, the Nakasongola District chairperson, said Nakasongola has in the past years been prone to animal diseases leading to cattle movement restrictions. 
“We always encourage the farmers to be vigilant since we have been in this for long. Many of the farmers are alert and ready to confront any outbreak,” he said. 

While the veterinary officers in the districts of Kabale and Kisoro, Dr Jimmy Obwooya and Dr Herbert Ngabo, said they have not registered any case of black quarter or lumpy skin in their areas, the Rukiga District veterinary officer, Dr Godfrey Bukose, said they have registered two cases of the black quarter disease in the last one year.

A veterinary doctor vaccinates a cow. Following the outbreak of black quarter and lumpy skin diseases in the districts of Lyantonde and Namisindwa, other farmers across the country are on high alert to avert any outbreak of the same in their areas.  PHOTOS/FILE

“Last year, we registered a case of black quarter in Kamwezi Sub-county and this month, we also registered another case of the disease at the same farm. We have arranged with the owner of the affected farm to carry out general vaccination to get rid of the disease. The vaccination exercise is yet to begin,” Dr Bukose said. 

The chairperson of Sembabule District Dairy Farmers Cooperative Union, Mr Richard Ambamu, said they are on high alert since Sembabule neigbours Lyantonde, which is already hit by black quarter disease.
“In Sembabule, we have not yet registered any case, although we hear there are some cases in the district. I am going to engage the district veterinary officer and the line ministry to discuss the possibilities of conducting mass vaccination,” he said. 

The Kiboga District veterinary officer, Dr John Bosco Tingira, said Kiboga being part of the cattle corridor, they have started mobilising farmers to vaccinate their animals too.
“We may be safe now but there is no guarantee that black quarter or lumpy skin cannot spread to Kiboga,” he said. 
In Namisindwa District, black quarter has not spread to the area but farmers are battling lumpy skin disease, which has so far left hundreds of head of cattle infected.
Mr David Mityelo, the Namisindwa District acting production officer, said several sub-counties are affected.
Among the affected areas are Bumbo Town Council, Bukokho Sub-county, Lwakhakha Town Council, Tsekululu Sub-county, Mukoto and Bukhabusi sub-counties.

Mr Mityelo added that since the start of this month, the district has recorded 100 cases of animals which have died as a result of lumpy skin disease. He further said some cases are never reported by farmers. 
“Lumpy skin disease has no cure or treatment since it is a virus but it can be prevented from spreading by enforcing  quarantine, isolating the sick animals and vaccinating, which the district has started rolling out,’’ Mr Mityelo said. 

Mr Jackson Wakwaika, the chairperson of Namisindwa District, said this disease has spread from the Kenyan side.
“Traders who engage in cross-border livestock trade are the ones who imported the diseases because western Kenya is currently battling lumpy skin disease,” Mr Wakwaika said. 

He added that the district has already alerted the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries but they are yet to get a response. 
“We have not yet received the response in terms of vaccinations and they have not sent a team on the ground to assess the situation,” he said.  
Ms Julie Namara, the Namisindwa deputy Resident District Commissioner, said they have already banned the cross-border trade of livestock as a way of containing the spread.

“The district security committee and production department are already enforcing a ban on movement of cattle to curb the spread of the disease,” she explained.  
Dr Anna Rose Ademun, the Commissioner for animals in the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, yesterday declined to comment on the matter, insisting that district veterinary officers are empowered to handle any disease outbreak.
“The information is supposed to be got from district veterinary officers, not me. Talk to those people and let them respond to these concerns,” she said. 

Lumpy skin disease is an infectious, eruptive, occasionally fatal disease of cattle characterised by nodules on the skin and other parts of the body.
 Secondary bacterial infection often aggravates the condition. 

Traditionally, lumpy skin disease is found in southern and eastern Africa, but in the 1970s, it extended northwest through the continent into sub-Saharan West Africa. Since 2000, it has spread to several countries of the Middle East and in 2013 extended west into Turkey and several countries in the Balkans. More recently, outbreaks of lumpy skin disease were reported for the first time in Georgia, Russia, Bangladesh, and the People’s Republic of China. 
The recent geographic spread of lumpy skin disease has caused international concern. 

Quarantine restrictions have proved to be of limited use. Vaccination with attenuated virus offers the most promising method of control.
On the other hand, the black quarter is an infectious bacterial disease visible through loss of animal body energy and swollen limbs, resulting in lameness and high body temperature.  The disease usually affects cattle, sheep, and goats. It always kills infected animals faster. 

Source: MSD Veterinary Manual

Compiled by Al Mahdi Ssenkabirwa, Fred Wambedde, Rajab Mukombozi Robert Muhereza, Julius Hafasha, Dan Wandera, Antonio Kalyango & Edison Ndyasiima.