SADC vets ponder deadly virus hurting goats, sheep in the region

05Dec 2017
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
SADC vets ponder deadly virus hurting goats, sheep in the region

VETERINARIANS from Southern African Development Cooperation (SADC) countries are meeting in Dar es Salaam to discuss ways to combat the deadly ‘peste des petits ruminants’ virus (PPRV),

A disease affecting small domestic and wild animals like goats and sheep that is now considered to be endemic across Tanzania and the region.

PPRV is understood to be one of the most devastating trans-boundary animal diseases (TADs) of small ruminants with significant geographic distribution in the world. It impacts on food security, nutritional and socio-economic aspects of communities.

Experts believe collective coordination among countries and strengthening of laboratory capacities can play a key role in aiding surveillance and confirmation of reported cases.

The manager of the Centre for Infectious Diseases and Biotechnology, Dr Jelly Chang’a, noted in her opening speech on behalf of the Tanzania Veterinary Laboratory Agency (TVLA) chief executive officer that the prevention, control and eradication of the disease requires regional and international cooperation.

“It is my hope that this meeting will lead us to improve our knowledge on the subject of sampling and diagnosing, and be regarded as a force towards development of regional PPRV control and eradication programmes in sub-Saharan Africa,” she said.

The weeklong meeting is being attended by veterinary scientists from Tanzania, Angola, Namibia, Madagascar, Zambia, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Eritrea, Lesotho, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

PPRV’s morbidity and case fatality rate can be as high as 80–100 percent in naïve herds, but in endemic areas it ranges between 10 and 100 per cent where previous immunity, age, and species of infected animals determine the severity of outcome.

The disease was officially confirmed in domestic animals in the Ngorongoro Crater area in 2008. It is now considered to be endemic throughout the country, but restricted to a few species of the small ruminant wildlife population.

Tanzania ranks third in Africa in livestock production (26 per cent of GDP) after Ethiopia and Sudan, with cattle being the dominant species followed by goats, sheep, and pigs. The sheep population is estimated to be around 5 million and the goat population is 15 million.

Livestock keeping is an important industry across Africa, especially in the rural areas where it is an essential source of livelihood. In Tanzania, about three out of five rural household incomes come from livestock activities, with livestock rearing earning an average of 22 per cent of total household income.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) country representative, Fred Kafeero, told the forum that PPRV is a threat to more than three-quarters of the total global population of 2.1 billion sheep and goats, as well as the livelihoods, food security and nutrition of more than 330 million people around the world.

“One of the major constraints to efficient livestock production is the presence of high-impact infectious diseases like PPRV which dramatically affects sheep and goat production,” Kafeero said.

He added that the disease has over the past 20 years spread to previously non-infected regions in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

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