By Oscar Nkala
Tissue samples taken from at least 100 cattle have tested positive for infection as a new outbreak of the foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) spreads across north-eastern Zambia.
In a disease outbreak alert sent to the government-run National Agricultural Information Services (NAIS) on May 31, Provincial Veterinary Officer Dr Wilson Katumbi said of the 101 tissue samples collected from visibly sick cattle in the Muchimba Province, 99 have tested positive for FMD.
Dr Katumbi said the tests, which were done at the Bamora Central Veterinary Research Institute in Lusaka, have not revealed the source of the disease. Farmers suspect the disease originated from the Mbala district in neighbouring Tanzania.
Muchinga Province is rated among Zambia’s least developed regions. It shares long and largely uncontrolled borders with Malawi and Tanzania, and has a high frequency of human and zoonotic infectious disease outbreaks.
Dr Katumbi said the government response is hamstrung by a lack of vaccines. It also lacks skilled manpower to enforce quarantine and emergency disease control measures. More than 5 000 cattle are at risk of infection.
Presently, the provincial veterinary office is advocating for an immediate ban on the movement and slaughter of all cloven-hoofed animals to prevent the disease spreading to other parts of Zambia. A massive vaccination exercise will be rolled out as soon as the FMD vaccine becomes available.