Foot and Mouth Disease in Botswana

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Foot and mouth disease (FMD) is caused by a highly contagious virus which spreadsquickly in pigs, sheep, goats and cattle. The virus causes large vesicles/blisters in themouth and around the hooves of the infected animal however, it does not have a highmortality. The pain associated with the lesions is great though and it often results toanorexia and lameness which in turn leads to a very poor condition which significantlydecreases the value of the animal.

Recovery from the disease is very slow and expensive since it requires time and extrafeed so as to bring the animal back to marketable weight. The most cost-worthy optionoften taken (and standard protocol for most of the world) is to kill off the entire herd toprevent spread.

A vaccine for FMD is available however as it actually mimics the virus, it creates aresponse that shows as a false positive during screening making virus screeningimpossible. The detection of FMD is based on whether or not an animal has antibodiesor is seropositive. Screening happens in import/export situations to ensure that acountry that is FMD negative is not importing cattle which are FMD positive.

Vaccinated animals can’t be exported and an animal tested positive on screening aswell as any animals at risk which are usually the ones nearby must be euthanized. Thecountry where that animal is from is labeled as FMD positive and exports from there arenot accepted until that country is able to prove that they no longer have the disease.Cattle tested as FMD can quickly become a terrible economic problem for any country.

In Botswana, the veterinary authorities have reported the latest FMD outbreak ata village in Francistown, the country’s second largest city in June of this year. AnFMD outbreak in the country often results to the tightening of veterinary checkpointprocedures.

Veterinary Checkpoints

At veterinary check points, travellers are checked for meat or fresh dairy products.When driving back from the north, don’t bother to have lots of meat with you as thereis a real chance of it being confiscated. It is not unusual to encounter veterinary “redzones” inside Botswana where moving meat bought within the country is not allowed.During an FMD outbreak, the country imposes very strict controls close to the northernborders and meat as well as dairy products from Namibia are confiscated. Buying meatinside Botswana becomes difficult and travellers can only buy them in bigger towns likeMaun, Palapye, Gabarone and Kasane.

Veterinary Checkpoint Locations

The following are some veterinary checkpoint locations in Botswana:

  • Between Kasane and Nata. If you can, buy meat in Kasane that can go throughthe checkpoint. There aren’t many big stores in Nata despite it being a fairly bigtown.
  • There is a foot and mouth disease checkpoint in Makalamabedi.
  • A checkpoint has been set at Ngwasha veterinary gate
  • Checkpoints will be set up at Pandamatenga north gate and Chobe National Parkeast game.
  • There are a couple of checkpoints going to Maun and dairy and meat productsare checked and often confiscated.
  • Between Ghanzi and Maun, there are three veterinary checkpoints.
  • There is a veterinary checkpoint between Maun to Okavango Delta.
  • Chigara veterinary checkpoint

Veterinary Checkpoint Procedures

Some travellers are often annoyed by the delays caused by the many veterinarycheckpoints in Botswana. This is however the country’s way of keeping FMD undercontrol and preventing the disease from further spreading and affecting the country’swildlife, particularly buffalos and other cloven-hoofed animals.

At such checkpoints, travellers are asked to step into a sponge box saturated withdisinfectant. Shoes they have packed away in their luggage must also be wiped withdisinfectant. Vehicles must go through a pit filled with similar disinfectant or the tiresdisinfected by a handheld sprayer.

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