Lifting of Quarantine and Movement Restrictions for African Horse Sickness
As from 17 May 2004 the movement quarantine imposed as a result of the outbreak of African Horse Sickness in the Western Cape, has been lifted in the Stellenbosch and Somerset West Magisterial Districts, as well as on individual farms placed under quarantine restrictions. This however, excludes the Kalbaskraal in the Malmesbury district and surrounding area where quarantines will remain in place until further notice.
Following extensive surveillance, monitoring and movement embargos on horses after confirmation of the disease at the end of January this year, the Department of Agriculture is satisfied that there has not been a suspicious or positive case or death as a result of African Horse Sickness in the Stellenbosch and Somerset West districts for at least the last seven (7) weeks indicating that the risk is sufficiently minimized to enable horses to move again. It appears that the disease is now under control with risk of further outbreaks minimized by the colder weather, which limits the activity of midges transmitting the disease.
Since the beginning of the outbreak a total of 16 horses were confirmed dead and approximately 20 confirmed clinical cases as a result of Horse Sickness. All cases were shown to be of the Serotype 1, which is suspected to have been introduced from outside the control area, possibly by an illegal movement of a sick horse or a horse incubating the disease. A dedicated staff component from the Directorate Veterinary Services inspected 4 848 horses on 1 616 holdings to monitor the disease. The Department of Agriculture also supplied 1400 doses of AHS vaccine free to farmers in the area and worked in close collaboration with private veterinarians to ensure that as many horses as possible were vaccinated within the shortest space of time. There was also very close cooperation with personnel from Disaster Management, the Provincial Traffic Department and the South African Police Services who together assisted the Department in containing the outbreak by restricting and policing horse movements.
The lifting of the quarantine means that the normal movement protocol required by the EU for the export of horses from South Africa that was implemented before the outbreak of the disease in February this year will apply. This entails correct vaccination, possession of passports, movement permits and health certification by a Veterinarian for horses crossing any control area boundaries from outside the area inwards towards the free zone.
According to Dr Gideon Brückner, Director Veterinary Services of the Western Cape, South Africa is still under an embargo for the export of horses to the EU. The European Commission has in response to the reports they received on the control of the outbreak, indicated that as soon as they are convinced that we can meet the conditions to resume exports, they would reconsider the position and not necessarily impose a ban for two years as was the case with the previous outbreak in 1999. A submission to request a lifting of the ban will now be submitted via the national Department of Agriculture to the European Commission.
As the responsible Minister I must express sincere appreciation to the provincial Department of Agriculture and its officials who played vital roles in restricting the spread of the disease. This particularly includes the invaluable cooperation from all the horse owners in the infected areas who sacrificed in a variety of ways by not moving horses as requested. We trust horse activities will now be able to return to normal in the Province and wish everyone every success as we continue to work together to maintain our disease free status.
Should more information be required please contact the State Veterinarian Boland at telephone number 021 808 5253.