The government will next week on Thursday roll out implementation of a nationwide programme for the control and eradication of a viral disease that affects small ruminants like sheep and goats.
Commonly known as Peste des Petits Ruminants (PPR), the disease causes heavy losses especially in goats and is one of the most damaging livestock diseases in Africa, Middle East and Asia.
In Kenya alone, the disease which was first diagnosed in 2006 in Turkana was responsible for the death of over 1.2 million ruminants between 2006 and 2008 with an estimated value of Sh 2.36 billion (USD 23.6 million) and a drop in milk production of 2.1 million litres.
Speaking to KNA during a media training in Isiolo prior to the roll out of the programme, Dr. Harry Oyas from the Directorate of Veterinary services said the disease which is currently endemic in Kenya, had an annual impact in all the 23 ASAL counties for the year 2016 estimated at Ksh 1.67 billion.
“We intend to control and eventually eradicate PPR disease by 2027 under the Sh6.2 billion strategy which is in line with the global plan to end the disease by 2030,” he said.
Through the support of The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) during a world assembly meeting of delegates in 2014 a resolution was made to develop a PPR Global Control and Eradication Strategy.
Last year, in September over 45 countries including Kenya in Brussels renewed their commitment to globally eradicate PPR by 2030.
Dr. Oyas further said that losses through PPR induce poverty, malnutrition, social and economic instability as well as human conflict.
Eradication of PPR, Dr Oyas added will therefore have a major outcome by guaranteeing the means and subsistence of millions of the rural poor.
Dr. George Njogu from the Veterinary Epidemiology and Economics Section (VEES) said more than 70 countries are estimated to be affected by the disease of which 60 percent are in Africa..
The economic losses yearly due to PPR, Dr. Njogu said is estimated to be between Ksh 140 billion (USD 1.4 billion) and Ksh 210 billion (USD2.1 billion) because of animal deaths, reduced production and the cost to fight the disease.
He explained that although goats are usually more severely affected than sheep , the disease attacks young animals aged 2 months to 2 years with morbidity and mortality rates reaching up to 100 percent in immature herds and lower in endemic areas.
“ This shows that the presence of the disease can therefore cause loss of production, abortion and death, limit local and international trade in livestock and livestock products and a decline in livestock production as well as loss of animal proteins for human consumption,’’ he noted.
Dr. Njogu explained that livestock farmers should thus report any suspect PPR cases to the nearest veterinary personnel especially if there is a combination of signs such as coughing, acute diarrhoea and nasal discharge in the sheep and goat flocks.
He however said that all sheep and goats should be vaccinated to prevent the disease from infecting the animals.
Dr. Njogu noted that Counties countrywide have been instructed to intensify disease surveillance in their areas and that the government is controlling the situation through livestock movement controls, isolation of infected animals and also cleaning and disinfection of infected premises.
The PPR virus is currently classified into four distinct lineages, namely Lineages I and II which are exclusively isolated within the West African countries where it originated, Lineage III is restricted to the Middle East and East Africa while Lineage IV is considered to be a new lineage made up of emerging viruses and currently most prevalent in Asian countries but becoming the predominant lineage in Africa.
Kenya is at Stage 2 of the Disease Eradication Pathway which involves disease control activities such as vaccinations and epidemiology in high risk areas.
According to Dr. Oyas, vaccinations coupled with control of livestock movement are the most viable mechanisms for PPR control and currently Kenya Veterinary Vaccines Production Institute (KEVEVAPI) is working towards coming up with a vaccine that does not need refrigeration as a more effective model for vaccination to make it easy and accessible and also ensure effective control of the disease.
He added that it is possible to eradicate PPR which is similar to Rinderpest disease which has been causing devastation in cattle in the past but Kenya was declared free from the disease in 2009.
Dr. Kamande Njuguna of FAO said the eradication of PPR by 2030 will require reinforcing veterinary services and also improving animal health by reducing the impact of other major infectious diseases of small ruminants.
In order to rid the PPR disease, the infected countries are also to achieve a progressive reduction and spread leading to final eradication while for non-infected countries maintaining recognized PPR free status is key.
According to the experts, early warning is the key to early reaction for, containment, control and rapid elimination of the PPR disease.
By Wangari Ndirangu