How to deal with diseases that come with floods
Patrick Muleli, a subsistence farmer in Makueni County, wakes up every day to attend to his livestock: cattle, goats and sheep. The animals are his lifeline.
That is why he jealously protects them from anything that threatens their health. When he heard recently that a free vaccination and treatment drive was in the offing, he was among first farmers whose animals were be attended to by vets.
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Four of his goats suffered from contagious ecthyma – a viral infection that colonises the mouth.
Viral ecthyma, says Judy Kimaru, a veterinarian and disaster manager for the African region at World Animal Protection (WAP), is one of the diseases that afflict livestock during and post floods.
“The flood season arrives with a host of diseases and parasites that a farmer cannot ignore,” Dr Kimaru, who took part in the animal treatment drive organised by Makueni County, says.
Mr Muleli was among thousands of livestock farmers in Makueni who benefited from the free veterinary services by WAP aimed at dealing with diseases and parasites that come with floods.
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At least 210,000 animals – cattle, goats, sheep, hens, donkeys and dogs – were vaccinated, dewormed and treated.
Makueni County Governor Kivutha Kibwana, who flagged off the vaccination and treatment drive, pointed out that the floods had caused a lot of trouble to farmers.
He said their records showed at least 100 domestic animals in the county had been swept away by the floods.
Apart from being generally destructive, floods portend unseen danger to livestock: disease and parasite infestation.
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WAP provided the vaccines and medicine used during the exercise while the University of Nairobi’s Veterinary Emergency Response Unit (VERU) provided young vets who treated the 210,000 animals.
She advises livestock farmers to do the following to prevent infections and diseases during rainy season:
Pathogens of bacterial, protozoan and fungal nature find wet organic substratum conducive for growth.
As a result, wet feed may contain mycotoxins – toxic substances produced by fungi. There is also the risk of flood water carrying dangerous chemicals into feed.
The best option would be to get rid of feed contaminated with flood water. However, if you really have to give the feed to livestock, at least call an extension officer to conduct test.
Keep animals from open water pans or pooled water
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During the rainy season, water pools become host to numerous pathogens and parasites. Leeches, liver flukes and some types of worms use water as a habitat and can be picked through ingestion of infested water.
Stagnant water may be infested with poisonous blue-green algae. Its toxins can inflict damage on the liver, nervous and digestive systems.
Farmers should also be careful about pooled water because chemicals and other toxic substances can easily leach into the pool. Water in the pool therefore becomes poisonous to animals that drink it.
Vaccinate and deworm against flood-related infections and parasites
During heavy rains and floods, livestock become susceptible to parasitic worms, which are ingested from feeding on contaminated vegetation and water.
Moisture is essential for worm survival and moist pastures are the ideal environment for worms to survive, multiply and infest animals.
During last week’s exercise, saw animals dewormed against common livestock worms like hookworms, liver fluke and the stomach worm.
Diseases and conditions during heavy rains are unavoidable. First, because the boom in parasitic infestation results in disease.
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But also because bacteria, fungi and similar disease-causing organisms increase in population and easily infect livestock.
Diseases like miasis (in cattle, goats and sheep), lumpy skin disease (in cattle goats and sheep), Newcastle (in chicken), contagious Kaprine plural pneumonia (in sheep) are prevalent in the rainy season, Dr Kimaru says.
Wet holding spaces are also potential carriers of deadly pathogens. For instance, fusobacterium, which causes foot-rot.
The pathogen enters the animal’s body through bruises, cuts and wounds. The pathogen then festers and causes infections in the foot, which then leads to lameness.
A farmer can build dykes and water channels to drain off flood water or move animals to higher ground.
The population of biting insects like buffalo fly, midges, mosquitoes, stable fly, and tsetse fly usually increase significantly when it rains.
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