New restrictions to curb spread of Newcastle disease

 

Windhoek – The movement and trading of live birds such as chickens, ducks, ostriches, guinea fowls, caged birds, pigeons, doves, and uncooked eggs, bird feathers and chicken feed originating from establishments where live chickens are kept, within, from and into the affected regions (Omusati Oshana, Ohangwena and Oshikoto) has been banned with immediate effect.

These stringent measures follow a recent outbreak of the dreaded Newcastle disease, which started in Omusati in August, according to state veterinarian Kennedy Shoombe. It has since spread to Oshana, Ohangwena and Oshikoto regions.

The Acting Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of the Agriculture, Water and Forestry, Sophia Kasheeta, yesterday confirmed that the movement of live birds, uncooked eggs and feathers from neighbouring countries bordering the affected areas of Namibia have also been banned.

Newcastle disease is a contagious bird disease affecting many domestic and wild avian species, which is transmissible to humans. It was first identified in Java, Indonesia, in 1926, and in 1927, in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England (whence it got its name). However, it may have been prevalent as early as 1898, when a disease wiped out all the domestic fowls in northwest Scotland.

Its effects are most notable in domestic poultry due to their high susceptibility and the potential for severe impacts of an epizootic on the poultry industries. It is endemic to many countries.

It is characterised by diarrhoea, bowing of heads, swollen head and wattles, paralysis and twisting of the neck, sneezing, coughing. Exposure of humans to infected birds (for example, in poultry processing plants) can cause mild conjunctivitis and influenza-like symptoms, but the Newcastle disease virus (NDV) otherwise poses no hazard to human health. Interest in the use of NDV as an anticancer agent has arisen from the ability of NDV to selectively kill human tumour cells with limited toxicity to normal cells.

No treatment for NDV exists, but the use of prophylactic vaccines and sanitary measures reduces the likelihood of outbreaks.

Kasheeta requested farmers in the affected areas to visit their nearest State Veterinary Office to obtain Newcastle disease vaccine.

All commercial poultry farmers are urged to have sound vaccination programmes and biosecurity measures in place. However, ostrich farmers are advised not to vaccinate their birds against Newcastle disease without consulting their state veterinarians.

The public is also being advised not to consume poultry/birds that died from this disease or any other disease but to report such incidences to the nearest state veterinary offices. Such poultry need to be destroyed by burning. Farmers are also requested to report all suspected cases to veterinary offices or any agricultural office, headmen as well as to their respective regional councillors without delay.

New Era yesterday learned from various poultry farmers about huge losses in their respective areas. One female farmer in the Oshikuku constituency, Omusati region, has lost more than 70 chickens to Newcastle disease since August this year. Another said she had lost close to 40 chickens since the beginning of last month, while Hilma Samwel, David Kanyakwa and Ndamona Jonas have lost between 20 and 60 chickens.

Kasheeta says inspections at roadblocks within the NCAs and regular patrols along the international borders are being conducted and all trespassers will be prosecuted.

The outbreak of Newcastle disease started in the Omusati Region in July 2016. The disease has been confirmed in Oshana, Ohangwena and Oshikoto regions where many chickens have reportedly died. Although such a magnitude of Newcastle disease has not been seen in the country for a long time, the disease is not new to Namibia, as sporadic cases have in the past been reported in most parts of the country.

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