Sunday Mail Correspondent
AT least 1 000 cattle have died of Theileriosis, a cattle disease also known as January Disease, over the past month in some parts of Mashonaland West province, with over 450 000 cows said to be under threat.
The disease, which has a fatality rate of up to 90 percent, is mostly common between December and March.
Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement’s Department of Livestock and Veterinary Services director Dr Jairus Machakwa, told The Sunday Mail that the cattle disease had mainly affected Zvimba, Chegutu and Mhondoro-Ngezi.
“We are seeing that among the cattle that ever get sick, a majority eventually die despite treatment. The case fatality rate for January Disease is very high, reaching up to 90 percent according to literature. We can conclude that most cattle that become sick eventually die,” he said. “The province has over 450 000 cattle therefore these cattle are facing serious threat of January Disease.”
Worryingly, outbreaks have also begun to be experienced in all Mashonaland provinces, Manicaland, Midlands and Masvingo while Matabeleland is presently spared.
Efforts are currently underway to develop a vaccine for the January Disease locally, with the first vaccine efficacy trial results expected by the end of this month.
Farmer educational campaigns on the prevention methods and treatment protocols, once animals are affected, are being rolled out through the Veterinary Services staff stationed in all provinces and districts.
Dr Machakwa said areas affected by the disease have been immediately put under quarantine, meaning no cattle will be moved in or out of their areas of habitation.
“Cattle dipping is the single most important tick control intervention. Areas experiencing outbreaks have been prioritised in the distribution of acaricides/dipping chemical so as to control the disease.
“The normal dipping frequency in the rainy season is once a week but this has been increased to three times in 2 weeks in the affected areas,” he said.
Dr Machakwa lamented a shortage in dipping chemicals, adding that heavy rains experienced over the past few weeks have resulted in some farmers not carrying out dipping sessions.
January Disease is a notifiable disease in Zimbabwe and when cases are suspected farmers are compelled by the law to report to the Division of Veterinary Services.
More than 2 000 cattle succumbed to the tick-borne disease in Mashonaland West during the same period, three years ago.
The disease left farmers in a panic mode with some selling their cattle for as little as $70 each.