UGANDA – Ugandan veterinary experts have confirmed an outbreak of goat plague (peste des petits ruminants) in the three districts of West Nile, the western part of the Northern Region, but they are clear the disease is transmitting very fast.

Peste des petits ruminants (PPR) is a viral disease caused by a morbillivirus closely related to the rinderpest virus, which affects goats, sheep, and some wild relatives of domesticated small ruminants, as well as camels. It was first reported in Ivory Coast in 1942.

Willy Nguma, the principal veterinary officer, who oversees the Arua regional veterinary laboratory, told Xinhua in an interview that tests done had confirmed cases of goat plague in the districts of Arua, Madi-Okollo, and Terego.

He said the disease, which has an incubation period of 21 days, affects all stages of the age of the animals.

Dr. Jimmy Obwooya, a veterinary officer, said an animal infected with PPR, presents with signs including sudden onset of depression, fever, discharge from the eyes and nose, which can form a crust, sores in the mouth, breathing difficulty, and forcing eyes shut, coughing very bad-smelling breath, diarrhea, and death.

He added that the “goat plague virus is excreted in bodily fluids of infected animals, especially tears, mucus from the nose, coughs, and it can spread by close contact, and especially by airborne droplets of the virus. An infected animal can die between 3 to 8 days depending on its immunity.

“It is a disease of economic importance because it causes miscarriage,” Nguma noted. “Many times, it affects the animals’ feeding, followed by diarrhea, hence loss of weight.”

Nguma could not confirm the number of animals so far killed by the plague but explained that the disease was spreading very fast because of the communal system of grazing, where healthy goats share grass with the infected ones.

Veterinary teams have already been dispatched to all neighboring districts to gather samples for further management.

“The Ministry of Agriculture has already dispatched vaccines. We already have 1,500 vaccines for Terego, 2,000 for Madi-Okollo, and about 2,000 are expected for Arua. This is going to be targeted vaccination,” Ngume said. “The situation can be controlled. It is not a disease that will always wipe out our animals.”

Last year, the disease also hit the country, killing an unspecified number of animals. During the outbreak, Dr. Juliet Ssentumbwe, the Commissioner for Animal Production in the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, acknowledged that their surveillance teams are also finding the same evidence.

The country has committed to a World Organization for Animal Health resolution to have eradicated the disease that spreads through infected animals grazing with healthy ones or contact while in transit by 2030.

She noted that the biggest challenge they face in tackling the disease is that it shares a lot of symptoms with other diseases, and farmers are not very familiar with it, considering that it hasn’t been common previously.

For all the latest food industry news from Africa and the World, subscribe to our NEWSLETTER, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel.