Nearly 800 cows in northern KwaZulu-Natal have now tested positive for bovine brucellosis.
A report by a veterinary services investigator reveals that the infection rate has surged to its highest levels in four years.
Animal health experts warn that threatens the animal’s reproductive health and nutrition which, in return, will cause economic failures for most rural animal holders.
Consumers of raw meat or fresh milk from infected dairy cows, goats, and sheep across the province are also at risk of being infected.
Communal dip tanks
The department of agriculture and rural development reported that 70% of the brucellosis cases were from the communal dip tanks in the north of KwaZulu-Natal.
In this region, there is generally poor compliance with brucellosis vaccination and testing.
Government now urges people to take measures to urgently curb the brucellosis spread.
“There are 2 055 operational dip tanks in the province and 53 livestock associations. Some associations must be rehabilitated and there is also a need for the construction of new dip tanks,” the department said in a media release.
To add insult to injury, critical technical posts for animal health technicians, state veterinarians, veterinary public health officers, and veterinary technologists in the province are vacant, which hinders service delivery.
Dr Cameron Kutwana is the director of animal health for northern KwaZulu-Natal. He says the department has initiated a vaccination drive for calves aged four to eight months with the S19 vaccine, and cows with RB51.
This vaccination programme was implemented at all dip tanks found in the uMkhanyakude, King Cetshwayo, uThukela, and uMzinyathi districts.
The department has also implemented an awareness campaign to inform rural communities of the dangers of brucellosis for both animals and humans.
Official results of this campaign are not available as yet. However, considering the increased use of the two vaccines in rural areas, as well as the increased number of inquiries at state veterinarians in the various areas, Kutwana is hopeful that the awareness campaign will yield positive results.
Stern warning from SAVC
In November last year Food For Mzansi reported that 400 cows in northern KwaZulu Natal tested positive for bovine brucellosis.
KwaZulu-Natal MEC for agriculture and rural development Bongi Sithole-Moloi lead a cattle vaccination drive in the province to try and curb infections.
In December of 2020 the South African Veterinary Council also urged the public not to drink unpasteurised milk, and to take caution with raw meat in the light of increasing brucellosis infections.
This is to protect themselves from the bacterial disease, which is endemic in all nine provinces, warned the council.