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Horse owners urged to vaccinate their animals

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Farmers and horse owners in the Northern Cape have been urged to vaccinate their horses against African horse sickness.

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FARMERS and horse owners in the Northern Cape have been urged to vaccinate their horses against African horse sickness (AHS).

The spokesperson for the provincial Department of Agriculture, Environmental Affairs, Rural Development and Land Reform, Zandisile Luphahla, said cases of AHS have been reported in the Kimberley area.

“The AHS is a mosquito-borne disease that affects horses and not human beings. The disease is associated with heavy rainfall after a long drought period. There are four zones recognised in South Africa for the control of AHS, and the Northern Cape province is in the AHS Infected Zone. So far, the Kimberley area has reported cases of AHS, however, incidences can also be expected in other parts of the Province due to rain and mosquito build-up,” said Luphahla.

He added that an increase in cases is expected in May.

Luphahla advised farmers and horse owners to look out for any possible signs of infection in their animals and to also report suspected cases urgently.

“Farmers and horse owners are urged to report all suspected or confirmed cases of AHS to the local state veterinary. The clinical signs may vary from one horse to another due to the clinical form of the disease. Horses suffering from AHS may show signs of difficulties in breathing, foam from the nostrils, sweating and swelling of the head, neck and above the eyes.”

He urged horse owners to also inform their neighbours should they have a confirmed case.

“If you have a case of AHS on your property, kindly inform your neighbours and anyone who brings horses to your property to help ensure that they take precautions to keep their animals safe. All horses must be vaccinated against AHS on a yearly basis. Contact a veterinarian for advice on vaccination.”

Luphahla added that simple precautions can be implemented by horse owners to keep their animals safe.

“Horse owners can prevent the mosquitoes that transmit AHS from biting their horses by ensuring they stable their horses from at least two hours before sunset to about two hours after sunrise. Also, treat your horses and stables with culicid midge repellent and or insecticide.

“Do not allow horses to graze on wet, marshy land at the high-risk times of the day if possible. Note that mosquitoes gather and breed in moist or muddy areas. Eliminate mosquito breeding areas by removing pools or puddles of standing water, sitting compost or dung heaps away from the horses and managing muddy areas such as around leaking taps and water troughs.

“For further information, horse owners can contact the animal health technician (AHT), a private veterinarian or our state veterinarian at 087 630 5663,” Luphahla said.

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