Durban - The total number of locations that tested positive for foot and mouth disease (FMD) since an outbreak was confirmed in Limpopo in November was sitting at 15, according to the Department of Agriculture, Land reform and Rural development.
"Four further cases of FMD were reported since mid-December 2019, with three cases reported in December and one case reported in the first week of January 2020. The total number of confirmed positive locations since the start of outbreak has risen to 15," said the department's media liaison officer Reggie Ngcobo on Tuesday.
More than 130 points were identified with possible links to specific auctions and known affected properties.
Follow-up investigations and collection of samples had already been performed on 95 of the points, and precautionary quarantines has been lifted on 44 properties that proved to be negative for FMD.
All properties where the disease was confirmed had been placed under quarantine and cloven hoofed animals were not allowed to move off the quarantined properties.
Guidelines and application procedures had been finalised for animals on FMD quarantined properties to undergo early slaughter at designated abattoirs with specific conditions to prevent the spread of FMD, said Ngcobo.
FMD does not affect human beings, thus meat and milk from infected livestock is safe for human consumption
"The department, together with the provincial veterinary services, started conducting awareness on FMD clinical signs and biosecurity measures in Limpopo province during the week of December 4. Awareness was already conducted in six villages in the Molemole area and 315 farmers attended these sessions.
"Use of FMD vaccine has not been indicated in controlling the current outbreak. The vaccination of cattle against FMD is conducted only by state veterinary officials in specific areas determined by the director of animal health, free of charge.
"The FMD vaccine is a controlled product that may only be handled by veterinary services, the general public is urged to immediately notify state veterinary officials should there be a suspicion of someone having, or claiming to have, or selling the FMD vaccine."
Ngcobo said the prohibition on the gathering of cloven hoofed animals from two or more properties, for distribution to two or more properties, had been published in the Government Gazette on December 4 and was applicable to the whole country.
The ban was instituted after veterinary authorities identified that the short-term congregation and redistribution of cloven hoofed animals played an integral part in the spread of the disease in the outbreak, as all the affected properties were linked directly or indirectly to auctions, he said.
The notice did not prohibit the movement of livestock from farm to farm, or from private auctions at individual farms.
In order to bring normality to the trade of livestock, said Ngcobo, the department and the FMD technical task team urged all auctioneers to register with the Agricultural Produce Agents Council (APAC).
"This is a legal requirement and auctioneers must comply with the conditions laid down in the Agricultural Produce Agents Act, 1992 (Act 12 of 1992). Additional biosecurity measures to be applied by registered auctioneers are under discussions and will be communicated as soon as finalised."
A group of about 50 emerging farmers, auctioneers and other stakeholders were in court on Tuesday to contest the national ban, saying only one province had been affected with FMD, and that it was "irrational" to maintain the ban in the country's eight other provinces. The outcome of the application was not available at the time of publication.