The Ministry of Agriculture will by the end of this week embark on a vaccination campaign in the south east, Southern and Kgatleng districts aimed at combating the Rift Valley Fever disease, which hit and threatened the region early last month.
The first ever recorded case of the disease in Botswana, Rift Valley Fever is a viral disease of ruminants, including wildlife and can also affect people. In animals the disease is mainly transmitted through mosquito bites and is characterized by abortion at all stages of pregnancy as well as high mortality in young animals.
People, however, can contract the disease through handling or consuming contaminated material.
Symptoms in people include fever, muscle or joint pains and bleeding from the nose, mouth and skin which can lead to death.
Briefing parliament on Monday over the recent measures so far undertaken to thwart the disease, the Assistant Minister of Agriculture, Oreeditse Molebatsi, indicated plans were already underway and are expected to resume at the earliest by the end of this week.
“The vaccination will start during the course of this week, specifically from 6th August 2010. From today onwards, the ministry will continue with public campaigns to inform the communities for them to be prepared,” Molebatsi said, adding that “the total estimated cost for the above activities is P2 500 000.”
“The cost will cover vaccine purchase and subsistence allowances for staff engaged in the vaccination and will be met from the envisaged savings within my ministry,” he pointed out.
Detected on 4th June 2010 by a local farmer after two of his cattle strangely aborted at a crush called Seribe, about 10km northwest of Ramotswa Village, Rift Valley Fever disease has stirred fear amongst both the commercial and subsistence farmers who depend on the animals for sustenance.
Botswana’s second income earner after diamonds, the livestock industry is seriously threatened by the presence of the disease, prompting the government to cancel a national agricultural show to avoid the spread into unaffected territories.
“Preliminary clinical and laboratories findings following the cases were suggestive of a disease called Rift Valley Fever. Further laboratory investigations confirmed that indeed, Rift Valley Fever was the cause of those abortions,” Molebatsi earlier informed the House, adding “This was the first ever recorded case of Rift Valley Fever in Ramotswa.
Following the outbreak the ministry immediately embarked on a spate of various remedies to minimize the disease’s socio-economic impact, which include, amongst others, intensified public education, disease surveillance, movement restrictions and cancellation of the shows.
“My ministry and the ministry of health jointly conducted a public education campaign through the public media and addressing Kgotla meetings and local authorities in the South east, southern and Kgatleng districts. I personally addressed the south east full council and Kgotla meetings at Ramotswa, Otse and Taung,” Tswapong south MP further revealed, adding “for the purposes of disease control and surveillance the country has been delineated into three disease control zones.”
“These are the infected zones, which cover the Ramotswa extension area, the surveillance zone, which is the rest of the south east district excluding Ramotswa extension, Kgatleng district and Goodhope sub-district and the free zone.”
As to movement restrictions, the ministry imposed a movement on cattle, sheep and goats and their fresh products while cancelling the 2010 national agricultural show in Gaborone due to the risk associated with livestock movement, he said.