Cape Town - A devastating disease known as “the rinderpest of small livestock”, with almost 100 percent mortality rates, has been steadily moving down Africa with unconfirmed reports that it has reached Angola.
The local red meat industry is on alert and has asked the Department of Agriculture to have the vaccine ready should the disease move further south. The disease, known as PPR, the acronym for the French pester desk petite ruminants, is also known as goat plague, and affects small livestock, particularly sheep and goats. However, it is also known to affect small antelope such as steenbok.
So far South Africa is free of the disease and was one of 48 countries declared “PPR-free” by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) last month. However, Gerhard Schutte, chief executive of the Red Meat Producers’ Association, said it was crucial that the country, still recovering from the foot and mouth outbreak some years ago, stays free of PPR by being proactive.
“Where they’ve got this disease in the rest of Africa, the mortality rate of livestock is almost 100 percent. It is a very bad disease. This is like rinderpest, but in small livestock. It’s been in African countries in the north, but we have now heard that it has come down to Tanzania and is in Angola. It is worrying, but the good news is there is a vaccine. We’ve already asked the Department of Agriculture to be proactive about this and get ready with the vaccine,” Schutte said.
PPR is an acute viral disease related to rinderpest and canine distemper. First reported in the Ivory Coast in 1942, the Merck Veterinary Manual says it has now spread to north, west and east Africa, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, central Asia and China.
“On both land masses the virus is still extending its range. In Africa a poorly understood barrier that prevented the virus from moving south from Sudan and Ethiopia has now been breached and both Kenya and Uganda are infected,” the manual said.
Countries are required to report any outbreak to the OIE.
Schutte said what was particularly worrying about PPR was that it also infected small antelope in the wild.
“That is a worry to us. If it is carried by small game in the wild, that makes it very hard to control. Photos we’ve seen show animals lying in a heap, so mortalities are very high. But the department has been very positive and says it will make sure the vaccine will be available at short notice.”
The Department of Agriculture said on Tuesday that PPR had expanded its range over the past 10 years: “Since PPR is a devastating disease of small ruminants, it has been selected as one of the top priority diseases to be addressed by the OIE.
“South Africa is aware of the significant risk this disease poses to small livestock industry.”