Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) is a highly communicable viral disease of hooved animals such as cattle, sheep, goats, pigs as well wild animals such as buffaloes. It has seven serological types O, A, C, Asia 1 and South African Territories (SAT) 1, 2 and 3.
Five of the seven types (O, A, C, SAT 1 & 2) are reported from time to time making the disease situation in the country to be termed as endemic (prevalent), unlike other places of the world where it has been eradicated.
The disease has a high morbidity (infection/spread) rate but low mortality (death). It is spread through direct contact with infected animals and materials such as fodder and vehicles; through breathing of infected aerosols; milk; semen and ingestion of meat from infected animals.
It is characterised by high fever, loss of appetite, salivation, limping, oral wounds and death in young animals. In endemic areas, biannual vaccination against the prevalent serotypes coupled with livestock movement control and enhancement of biosecurity measures can effectively control the disease.
Asked to describe foot and mouth disease (FMD) in their own words, farmers who were sampled in a last month’s survey in Nakuru noted that the disease is extremely dangerous; destructive; challenging to treat; kills in days and requires to be vaccinated against.
Some said it should be declared a national disaster and others called it ‘Ebola of cattle’.
The survey was conducted by the Nakuru Regional Veterinary Investigation Laboratory (RVIL) in collaboration with the county veterinary staff.
Its general objective was to determine the socio-economic impact of the outbreak that had affected 10 of the 11 sub-counties in Nakuru.
Of the outbreak, four of the seven common serotypes of the disease had been confirmed. These are Types O, A, SAT 1 & SAT 2.
Further, the disease that commonly affects cattle had also affected sheep, goats and pigs and there were unconfirmed cases of a dead donkey and an animal health service provider, who had developed some foot lesions after attending to some sick cows.
Interestingly, the disease usually occurs in the dry season of January to March when there is a lot of animal migration in search of water and pasture, but in this case, the disease occurred from July and up to the time of survey (October), it was still active.
Foot and mouth disease kills mostly young animals but in this case, some farmers reported high death rates in adult animals. Scientists expect results of the research will help the country deal with the disease.
Four farmers (household heads – HHH) were sampled in each of the 10 sub-counties in Nakuru that had confirmed the disease.
Two of the farmers had reported the disease since July and two had not. The survey targeted the small (1-10) and medium (11-100) dairy cattle farmers (household heads).
All (100 per cent) of female-headed households recorded the disease and was more prevalent where the farmer was aged between 36-60 years than in cases where they were youth (19-35) years or where they were over 60 years.
The active age of a person in Kenya is 36-60, that is between youth and retirement. Those involved in farming at this age could also be having other commitments, such as employment, business or bringing up a family, thus taking less interest in farm management.
LOWER INCIDENCES OF FMD
They might forget to have their animals vaccinated or to take other necessary precautions such as having foot and wheel baths (disinfection sites at the farm’s entrance).
On the other hand, the youth (19-35) who take up farming are serious with it as they see it as a business. They are likely to take all disease control measures as well as management issues such as feeding and breeding seriously. Those over 60 are most likely retirees.
In the study, female-headed households recorded high prevalence of the disease and this is because, generally, women depend on their male partners for farm management. They may also lack collateral in the form of title deeds, thus cannot get farm development financial support.
The disease incidence was the highest where the farmer also engaged in white-collar employment, followed by households where the head was farming and also in business. The incidence was lowest where the head was solely and fully engaged in farming.
Generally, the other engagements limit the HHH concentration on farming, even though those engaged in business are more flexible than the employed staff, who have to get permission from a third party and hence higher disease prevalence on their farms.
The disease was reported by some households that owned sheep and goats but no farmer who owned beef cattle, donkeys or pigs reported it.
Farmers who kept farm records not only on vaccination but also other aspects such as production/sales, deaths/births plus diseases/treatments reported lower incidence of FMD than those who kept no records.
There was a higher incidence (77 per cent) of FMD where farmers practised zero-grazing than those who semi zero-grazed, did paddocking or free ranged.
A majority of the farmers (65 per cent) reported the disease outbreak to a private animal health service provider as opposed to a government veterinary staff.
Upon receiving the news, a majority (85 per cent) of the service providers (private and public) treated the animals. It was also noted that 15 per cent of the farmers whose animals had the disease had vaccinated them.
According to the survey, a majority of the farmers whose animals were affected by the disease drenched them with local brew (busaa) as the treatment of choice.
Busaa is about 4 per cent alcohol, a concentration which is very mild as compared to surgical spirit, which is 70 per cent alcohol, so its medical value in killing the FMD virus is questionable.
The brew normally makes the animal drunk, thus reducing the pain in the foot and mouth wounds. The animal is therefore able to feed, thus boosting its immunity and recovery, but farmers should seek proper treatment.
HIGHER OCCURENCE OF THE DISEASE
A word of caution, however, is that the brew is stable for one to two days after production. Thereafter, acidification and denaturing take place, making the substance toxic.
Some farmers buy busaa that lasts for over five days, which implies that they could be poisoning the animals unintentionally and this explains the deaths that were occurring in adults, a rare condition as FMD is known to kill mostly young animals.
Epidemiological (disease spread) issues
Farmers who reported incidence of FMD predisposing factors such as bringing in new animals, fodder, visiting or being visited by another FMD active HHH, and or being visited by an animal health service provider a week before the outbreak reported higher incidence of the disease than those who had no such encounter.
A majority of the farmers did not have biosecurity measures such as foot and wheel baths. However, even those with the facilities who had a footbath still had the disease on the farm as the facility was minimally used due to the presence of many entrances to the animal house.
HHH that were near stock routes, slaughter premises and holding grounds, used communal facilities such as grazing areas and cattle dips had higher incidence of the disease.
Interestingly, farms that were near livestock markets were not more prone to FMD than those that were far. However, HHH who had some form of interaction with livestock markets, like buying fodder, animals or a visit by a livestock trader had higher occurrence of the disease.
Farmers who vaccinated their animals twice a year had lower chances of the disease than those who vaccinated annually, or only when there was an outbreak. This also applied for irregular vaccinations.
Social impacts of the disease reported by farmers
Self-imposed or peer-imposed quarantines; upsurge of lifestyle diseases like diabetes and hypertension; not taking animals to the dip; restricted exchange of animals for dowry or assisted grazing and restriction of animals to communal grazing grounds/watering, among others.
Economic impacts reported by farmers include reduced/loss of milk; buying milk; reduced income; loss of animals; treatment expenses; time taken to care for the sick animals; loss of body condition/animal price; restricted animal movement and trade.
Most of the issues that were found to have contributed to the disease are not new, but a few require special mention:
Zero-grazing farming system is a disease control tool for tick-borne diseases, worms and others but it is not good for FMD due to FMD transmission method.
The restricted animal movement in zero-grazing units prevents animals from being taken to communal vaccination centres.
This, coupled with the false impression that the disease cannot access animals in the zero-grazing units, makes them vulnerable.
It is, therefore, recommended that vaccinators and owners of zero-grazed animals must ensure that the animals are vaccinated routinely.
This outbreak occurred when there was enough feed and water, while those near stock routes, slaughter premises and holding grounds reported more incidents of the disease.
This implies that these facilities were the source of the disease, thus livestock movement control is key in stopping FMD.
A small portion of animals vaccinated against the disease were infected and four serotypes of the disease had been confirmed.
This means there is no cross-immunity against the serotypes and an animal vaccinated against one type can get infected with another type.
Vaccinating the animals against the four common serotypes is therefore important. Animals should be vaccinated every six months as vaccine potency declines with time.
The disease kills mostly the young stock but in this case, a number of adult deaths were reported. It is suspected that the said animals could have concurrently been infected with more than one serotype.
It is, therefore, important to enhance biosecurity when there is a disease on the farm to avoid reinfection by a different zerotype.
Most farmers reported the outbreak to private AHSP. However, FMD control is the prerogative of the county AHSP.
This implies that the private AHSP should also be involved in the disease control strategies.
Most AHSP treated the animals and only one was reported to have taken a sample. It is important to take a sample whenever there is an FMD outbreak to identify the serotype. Further, the AHSP should enhance biosecurity when moving from one farm to another.
Women-headed households are vulnerable and should be given special attention during vaccination campaigns.
Magadi soda is known to kill or inactivate the virus and animals recover faster if wounds are treated with the agent than making them get drunk through the brew.
Dr Mwirigi and Dr Mosabi, [email protected]