Another foot-and-mouth disease outbreak reported in Namibia
In 2020, Namibia confirmed a the existence of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in the Ndiyona constituency in the northern region of Kavango East at the end of September. At the end of October, the country confirmed another outbreak as FMD spread from the Kavango East region to the Kavango West region. Then just recently, on January 13, Namibia confirmed another outbreak of FMD in the northern regions of Oshana and Ohangwena, according to Namibia’s Ministry of Agriculture.
Foot-and-mouth disease is a severe and highly contagious viral disease that affects all cloven-hooved animals, both livestock and wildlife, according to USDA. It is not transmissible to humans and does not pose a public health or food safety issue. In cattle, symptoms include fever, vesicles or blisters on the tongue and lips and between the claws of the feet, on the coronary band and on the teats. In most cases, cattle producers notice symptoms of the disease when cattle become lame or start salivating profusely. Additionally, cattle quit eating due to ulcers in their mouth. The disease is transmitted through respiratory droplets and other body secretions such as saliva, feces, semen, urine and milk.
The U.S. received its first shipment of Namibian beef in April 2020. The shipment consisted of 25 metric tons of chilled beef from the Meat Corporation of Namibia, Meatco. Meatco was the first eligible company from Africa to export meat to the U.S. The company has been audited by USDA and recognized as “equivalent to U.S. establishments.” Namibia is well known for their free-range, hormone-free beef that has found its way into the lucrative Chinese, European and American markets.
The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) states that FMD is believed to circulate in 77 percent of the global livestock population in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, as well as in limited areas of South America. In Namibia, central and southern regions of the country are recognized as FMD free without vaccination, while the northern region of the country deals with endemic FMD outbreaks.
Dwight Keller believes that the U.S. needs to stop importing beef from Namibia and other countries with known FMD cases because those imports are jeopardizing the American cattle industry. “We shouldn’t be taking product from any country with known FMD cases. If FMD found its way into the American cattle herd, our industry would never be the same. It would be devastating and a lot of cattle producers would go out of business.” Keller ranches near Mandan, ND and serves as the Animal Health Committee Chairman for United States Cattlemen’s Association. According to Keller, the spread of FMD in the U.S. cattle herd would pose an unbearable financial burden on producers and it would mostly likely take upwards of ten years to work through the situation.
According to the USDA, the U.S. recognizes 55 countries and/or territories as FMD-free without vaccination and the OIE recognizes 67 countries as FMD-free without vaccination. The USDA determines how much beef is imported into the U.S. and where it comes from. “The USDA continues to import beef from more countries and that just increases the risk to our cattle industry,” said Keller. He believes that cattle industry groups who are closely tied to the packing sector are lobbying the agency. “The packers want to keep our domestic cattle cheap through imports, that way they can continue to receive the highest profit margins possible,” stated Keller.
Namibia experienced one of the worst FMD outbreaks in history in 2015, taking nearly a year and $13 million to eradicate the disease. During this outbreak, the disease spread across three regions in Africa. Nonetheless, by January 2016, the country was declared FMD-free.
Namibia has a traceability system where each animal is tagged with a unique number, according to Namibia’s Ministry of Agriculture. Any movement that an animal makes, from farm to farm or from a farm to a livestock auction market, is recorded in a computer database. The system’s goal is to track the origins of any meat product if need be.
FMD has not been detected in the United States since 1929. State and federal animal health officials are continually preparing for an FMD outbreak in the U.S through emergency response plans and the development of a potential vaccination.
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