Intensive surveillance and vaccination campaign checks rinderpest epidemic in
A second round of vaccinations started in June and will run until mid-August. In Tanzania, some 3.5 million doses of vaccine have been provided to cover cattle in the affected area and those in surrounding areas considered to be at risk. The vaccine was donated by the European Union (2.5 million doses), the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran (0.5 million doses) and FAO/UNDP (0.5 million doses).
"There haven't been any new cases of rinderpest reported since the end of May," said Mark Rweyemamu, Senior Officer in FAO's Infectious Diseases Group (Animal Production and Health Division). "We believe the disease is under control, but we will not know for sure until September or October." He spoke of the second round of vaccinations as "a mopping up exercise to wipe out remaining pockets of enemy resistance".
It is vital to control the outbreak on three fronts:
Rweyemamu said that it is one of the most concentrated vaccination campaigns against rinderpest in recent years: "What we're sure of is that the action taken is effective action, seriously undertaken on both sides of the Kenya-Tanzania border."
Intensive surveillance is now necessary to detect further outbreaks. The task is complicated by the fact that the strain of the virus involved - which has been called "low-profile" rinderpest - does not cause typical symptoms and is therefore often not recognized by farmers. A Surveillance Training Programme for local veterinary and laboratory staff will boost the effectiveness of routine patrols and emergency preparedness.
Surveillance will have to continue well into 1998, with local veterinary staff patrolling villages on a monthly basis and responding immediately to reports from the field of suspected cases of rinderpest. Experts have also stressed that surveillance of wildlife - which is not covered under the current project - is vital if an accurate map of rinderpest in Tanzania is to be drawn. Rweyemamu explained that it is impossible to vaccinate wildlife, so if the rinderpest virus were to leak into Serengeti, "it would devastate the wildlife and the national veterinary services of the two countries would be bogged down with expensive vaccination of cattle in the surrounding areas for another five years before the virus dies out". And this, he added, "would be a serious setback for GREP".
22 July 1997
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