This article is part of a series of articles educating livestock owners and farmers about the importance and effect of the Animal Diseases Act, 1984 (Act 35 of 1984). It explains the reasons for the existence of this Act, what farmers’ general rights and duties are, and goes into more detail regarding the control measures for some of the most important controlled animal diseases.

Part 2: Control of foot-and-mouth disease

On 7 January this year, South Africa lost its ‘foot-and-mouth free zone without vaccination’ status, which had been granted by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). This came after an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) was reported in the high surveillance area of the FMD-free zone in Limpopo.

Many farmers are still suffering as a result of the outbreak, although no new cases have been reported in the past few months. Some international trade has been restored, but there are still bans in place that continue to cause economic losses. From past outbreaks we know that this can cost the country millions if not billions of rand in economic losses, which is why the control of FMD is extremely important to all farmers and role-players in agriculture.

Permanent control measures

Due to the serious consequences of an outbreak, there are permanent measures in place for FMD control in South Africa. The main control measures are movement control, surveillance in high risk areas and vaccination of cattle in specified zones. Compulsory identification of cattle in these zones help with the control.

A very important control measure stipulated in the Animal Diseases Act, 1984 (Act 35 of 1984) is that contact between African buffalo and cattle must be prevented at all times. This is important even in the FMD-free zone of the country.

South Africa is partitioned into different zones for FMD control: the FMD-free zone, the FMD protection zone and the FMD infected zone. There are different control measures that apply to each zone. Maps of the zones are available on the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ (DAFF) website (www.daff.gov.za). Figure 1 is a sample of one of the maps available.

Figure 1: South Africa’s FMD zones.

FMD infected zone

The Greater Kruger National Park and specified areas around it in Limpopo and Mpumalanga make up the largest part of the infected zone. However, the Ndumo Nature Reserve and Tembe Elephant Park in KwaZulu-Natal are also part of the infected zone.

Control measures permanently in place in the infected zones are:

  • Keeping cattle in these areas is strongly discouraged. However, in areas where cattle are present, animals must be vaccinated against FMD and identified with the official green ZAR ear tags.
  • Very strict movement of live animals and their products.
  • Ongoing intensive surveillance for FMD.

FMD protection zone

This zone forms a buffer between the infected zone and the free zone. Due to the OIE definition, the protection zone is seen as ‘part of the infected zone’, although in South Africa it is considered to be outside the infected zone. It is also subject to movement control. Details of the geographical areas that form part of the FMD protection zone can be found in the Regulations.

The protection zone is partitioned into two zones: protection zones with mandatory vaccination, and protection zones without vaccination. In the protection zones with mandatory vaccination, cattle are routinely vaccinated against FMD and identified with the official green ZAR ear tags. Vaccination is not practiced in the protection zone without vaccination and cattle in this zone are identified with the official pink ZAR ear tags.

Other control measures are:
  • Only FMD-free buffalo may be kept, subject to specific fencing requirements and regular testing at the owners’ cost.
  • Strict movement control of live animals and their products.
  • Regular surveillance.

FMD-free zone

The remainder of South Africa forms the FMD-free zone. No FMD vaccination is allowed in the free zone, unless there is an FMD outbreak. Animals may only be vaccinated on the instruction of the director of Animal Health.

Inside the free zone there are two zones of further importance: the FMD high surveillance area, and the FMD high surveillance area with movement control. The FMD high surveillance area is an area along the external international borders of South Africa, as well as the area bordering the FMD protection zone in Limpopo and Mpumalanga.

The FMD high surveillance area with movement control borders the FMD infected and protection zones in KwaZulu- Natal. Cattle in these areas must be identified with official yellow ZAR ear tags.

Inside the high surveillance areas there are specific requirements for regular clinical inspection of cattle and serological surveillance as determined by the Department of Animal Health (DAH).

Details of the various control measures relevant to each zone are provided in the Veterinary Procedural Notice: Foot and Mouth Disease as approved by the director of Animal Health on 23 October 2014. It is available on DAFF’s website.

Further control measures

The Act also stipulates the controlled veterinary acts that should be performed on infected animals, contact animals and susceptible animals.

All cloven-hoofed animals are regarded as susceptible to FMD. According to this, infected animals must be isolated, and the director of Animal Health must determine whether animals are to be immunised or culled. Contact animals must be isolated and dealt with as determined by the director.

After the FMD outbreak in January a disease management area was declared. Strict movement control of all live cloven- hoofed animals and their products was put in place, prohibiting any movement of animals into, from and within the management area without the necessary state veterinary permits. Roadblocks were set up to monitor and enforce movement control.

Clinical inspections were conducted and further samples from suspect animals were collected and tested. All cattle in the management area that had previously been outside the compulsory vaccination area had to be vaccinated.

Although it is not certain how this outbreak will influence the future control of FMD in South Africa, it is possible that the boundaries of the control zones may change and that the current management area might be included in the protection zone in future.

However, we will have to wait and see what DAFF’s proposal to the OIE will entail and whether it will be accepted.

In summary

South Africa is partitioned into different FMD control zones. Strict control of the movement of cloven-hoofed animals and their products from, within and into the infected and protection zones is essential for FMD control.

Vaccination of cattle in the infected zones and the protection zones forms part of the permanent control measures as well as ongoing surveillance for FMD in high risk areas.

Due to the current outbreak there is a possibility that the boundaries of the control zones may be changed and people who might be affected by the change should keep this in mind.

Lastly, a very basic but important control measure that is often overlooked is that contact between cattle and buffalo need to be prevented at all times, regardless of the zone in which the animals are kept. – Dr Trudie Prinsloo, director of Legalvet Services

Read part one, The Animal Diseases Act: What farmers should know about control of certain diseases by clicking on the link. Read the latest article on FMD by clicking here.