A RARE tick-borne disease (atheileriosis) is killing cattle at an alarming rate in Mutare district with some unscrupulous elements reportedly selling the carcases to butchery operators at give away prices, putting the lives of unsuspecting consumers at risk.

More than 175 cattle have succumbed to suspected theileriosis – which is popularly known as the January disease. The disease is caused by a blood parasite called Theileria and is one of the major constraints to the development of the livestock industry due to the high rate of mortality it causes in livestock and the productivity losses it causes in animals that recover from the disease.

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA – NOVEMBER 27: An employee prepares imported U.S. beef at a store on November 27, 2008 in Seoul, South Korea. The import of U.S. beef, which is sixty to seventy percent cheaper than Korean beef, had been suspended for 13 months due to the discovery of banned backbones in import shipments. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

The situation has seen some unscrupulous farmers particularly in Odzi and Mutare selling some of the carcasses to butcheries in Mutare, a development which has been condemned by health and veterinary experts in the province. Meat from animals suffering from such condition should be removed from the food chain, but it is being sneaked in butcheries in Odzi and Mutare city and other areas by unscrupulous people who argue that there is no epidemiological evidence that eating it can result in transmission of the disease to humans.

Butchery operators are reportedly flocking to Odzi to buy the infected cattle and carcasses for resale.

“The cattle often have swollen offals which produce puss that is mixed with blood. Some of the meat is being sneaked into butcheries in Mutare city. There is a syndicate behind this, and at times do this without the butchery owners’ knowledge and blessings. The scandal is well co-ordinated. The veterinary officers must come here and assess the situation before we lose more cattle,” said one farmer who requested anonymity.

Chief animal health inspector for Manicaland Mr Roy Dube said farmers in Odzi and other surrounding areas should dip their cattle weekly to interrupt the breeding cycle of ticks and prevent a build-up of tick population.

“The area is suffering from tick-borne disease spread from one animal to another by ticks that accumulate as a result of none dipping. The peak period for the tick-borne diseases is in the hot wet season which presents ideal environmental conditions for breeding of ticks. Prevention of the disease is dipping and we understand that the dipping process will be done Fridays to prevent further losses,” he said.

He revealed that Odzi area was under quarantine, meaning no cattle was allowed to get in or out of the area.

Added Mr Dube: “People should attend all dipping sessions provided for by Government in the communal areas. A lot of cattle have died due to the disease. People should also pay their dipping fees to facilitate constant supply of dipping chemicals. It is not allowed to move tick-infested cattle from one area to another as this will aid the spread of tick-borne diseases. Commercial farmers should stock adequate dipping chemicals for the rainy season and ensure they dip their animals weekly.”

Nyamajura Ward One Councillor Luxton Mawanga revealed that they had lost many cattle due to suspected theileriosis within a week.

Some of the cattle are still suffering from the disease.

“We have experienced the worst situation in Ward 1 in Nyamajura and Gwenanzira area, where A2 farmers have lost most of their beasts due to the disease. We have received reports that 175 cattle have so far died due to the disease. People have not been dipping their cattle for a long time. In some of the areas there are no functional dip tanks which has resulted in the outbreak of the disease,” he said.

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