A new Virus in sheep adds more sorrow to livestock keepers in Mara amid Covid-19
Action Africa Help International is supporting 350 livestock keepers in Narok County which spreads across four cooperatives and one Community Based Organization. The livestock keepers who traditionally deal with cattle have been receiving training on ways to better their livestock concentrating on proper ways to feed them, the health of the animals, and marketing. AAH-I has trained the cooperatives on alternative livelihood methods, with three of the cooperatives and one CBO adopting beekeeping as an alternative source of income. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the activities of the cooperatives have been affected since social gathering have been suspended by the ministry of health to contain the spread of the Covid19 virus.
However, even as reported in the human situation, the prevalence of diseases affecting the livestock didn’t cease with the onset of coronavirus disease. The rains have been pouring heavily all over the country since late 2019. The onsets of the heavy rains in Mara brought with it a new type of a disease that has never been witnessed in the area. The disease which mainly affects the sheep has made the farmers in Narok County, Narok West sub-county lose quite a large number of sheep adding more to their sorrows.
The farmers struggled to find the cure of the disease but with no success since they didn’t get the right expert who knew about the disease. The livestock keepers resulted in traditional ways of treating the disease such as the use of salts which worsened the situation of the sheep.
AAH-I undertook to find a solution to the farmers to avert further losses. A veterinary officer from the county department of Livestock was sought to train the farmers on the disease. According to the expert, Blue Tongue is a disease that affects the sheep alone. The disease is an insect-borne viral disease. The disease is non-contagious meaning can’t be passed from sheep to sheep. It is only transmitted by insect vectors – tiny flies called midges. (Culicoides). Signs of bluetongue disease include; fever, widespread hemorrhages of oral and nasal tissue, excessive salivation, and nasal discharge, the lips and the tongue become swollen and this swelling may extend below the lower jaw, lameness due to swelling of the cuticle above the hoof.
Unfortunately, the disease is a virus and has no treatment but rather requires a vaccine to control it before the onsets of rains. “The principal and effective measure is vaccination of the sheep to reduce, clinical disease and contain the spread of the disease. Also, control of the movement of the animals, quarantine, and good husbandry procedures to control the vectors, reduce the transmission, and protect susceptible animals. Tracing and surveillance to determine the extent of the virus and vector distribution. Zoning to define infected and disease-free areas.” Mark Lemein, County Veterinary Officer
The veterinary however advised that there are deterrent drugs and antibiotics which can help to reduce the death of the sheep. The cooperative members agreed to organize themselves and get the drugs with the directive of the Veterinary officer.
Apart from the training on the sheep viral disease, the cooperative’s members were further trained on the hygiene measures to curb the spread of the Covid19. The groups were advised to continue observing social distancing, put on masks whenever they are in the public and wash hands regularly with water and soap, or use sanitizers.