Botswana’s beef export industry could be severely undermined in the long run by a spreading outbreak of beef measles which has reached infection rates of up to 13% in the northern Ngamiland region, the government has warned …

Agriculture Minister Patrick Ralotsia told local media that the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) lost a monthly average of 6 percent of its slaughter stock when the carcasses are found to be infected with measles.

Ralotsia said while cattle measles infection rates had generally remained low across the country, the government was worried about developments in areas around Lake Ngami where infection rates had rocketed to 13 percent of late.

Symptoms only appear after slaughter

He said there was very little government could do because the disease, which cattle get from ingesting human waste, cannot be detected while the animal is alive as the symptoms only appeared after slaughter.

“This is a serious threat to our beef industry. Measles is a threat to our beef export industry because if it continues unchecked, nobody would buy our beef if it is persistently associated with measles infections.

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“There must be a strategy to control this disease. Botswana has a good record of eradicating animal diseases, and the same should be done with measles,” Ralotsia said.

Beef measles, (scientific name Cysticercus Bovis) are small cysts that are made up of tapeworms measuring between 4 and 10 metres in length.

They are found in the muscles of cattle, especially on the jaw, tongue, heart and diaphragm, although they can be found in other muscles of the animal.

Humans become infected by eating raw or undercooked meat containing a cyst

Once swallowed, the immature tapeworm in the cyst is liberated and attaches itself to the small intestinal walls of its hosts and develops into an adult tapeworm within 2-3 months. The tapeworm can survive for at least 25 years.

Among other interventions, the government has planned awareness campaigns among livestock farmers to help build ground-based capacity for the detection and control of the disease.

Currently, Botswana exports the bulk of its beef to the European Union. However, it also actively seeking new markets in Russia, individual EU nations, the Middle East, China and Sub-Saharan Africa to end total dependence on the EU market in the face of tightening export regulations.

Author: ANA Newswire