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Rabies and Black Leg disease detected in cattle in Belize Print E-mail
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Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 10 March 2016 00:00

Some nine cattle have recently died in Belize as a result of both rabies and black leg diseases. There have been at least three cases of rabies among cattle in the Orange Walk and Cayo District and several cases of black leg have been clinically diagnosed in the Toledo District. There is now a concurrent infection among cattle with rabies and black leg and from previous years it has been known that in the starting of every year, cattle would come down with black leg. As a result, the Belize Agriculture Health Authority BAHA is now recommending that farmers purchase the vaccines that can be used to prevent both diseases from occurring.

BAHA has since been having meetings with the Belize Livestock Producers Association. A specially assembled team has also been meeting with cattle farmers. In collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, a team travelled last week to the Toledo District and have been getting positive response from cattle farmers. 

BAHA strongly recommends for all cattle farmers to vaccinate their cattle against Rabies if they have not been vaccinated in the last year and against Blackleg if they have not been vaccinated in the last six months.

Rabies is a highly fatal disease that affects all mammals. The disease is always fatal but can be prevented through vaccination. Affected animals will usually show nervous signs and aggressive behavior. Most animals will show excessive salivation as swallowing becomes impossible. The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death. Avoid coming in contact with animals showing these symptoms and immediately call BAHA Officers.

An advisory from BAHA notes that Blackleg is a highly fatal disease in young cattle. In most cases the animal is found dead without being previously observed sick. The speed with which blackleg kills usually makes individual treatment useless. It is caused by the spore forming, rod shaped, gas producing bacteria Clostridium chauvoei.  The spores of the organism can live in the soil for many years.  The first sign observed is usually lameness, loss of appetite, rapid breathing and the animal is usually depressed and has a high fever.  Characteristic swellings develop in the hip, shoulder, or elsewhere. First the swelling is small, hot and painful. As the disease progresses, the swelling enlarges and becomes spongy and gaseous. If you press the swelling, gas can be felt under the skin. The animal usually dies in 12 to 48 hours.

Dr. Miguel DePaz, the Director of the Animal Health Department within BAHA recommends that farmers should vaccinate their cattle every year. He reasons that farmers can obtain up to $2,400.00 from an 800 pound animal, so spending $5.00 on a rabies vaccine and $1.50 for a vaccine to fight black leg is cost effective. These vaccines can be obtained at any agro veterinary store or from a registered veterinarian.

Blackleg is almost entirely preventable by vaccination. The most commonly used clostridial vaccination in cattle is the 7-way type which protects against seven types of Clostridia organisms.
Additional information can be obtained from livestock officers of the Department of Agriculture in the districts, BAHA animal health officers, Belize Livestock Producers Association and Registered Veterinarians.