The central and southwestern parts of the country have been hit by Peste des Petits Ruminants (PPR), commonly known as sheep and goat plague.
PPR is an acute or sub-acute viral disease of goats and sheep characterised by fever, necrotic stomatitis, gastroenteritis, pneumonia, and, sometimes, death.
According to experts, the disease is highly contagious and affects small ruminants, including goats and sheep. PPR is spread through close contact with infected animals.
The virus lives in nasal and salivary secretions and excretions, like faeces of infected animals. However, it does not infect humans.
Affected animals have high fever and depression, along with eye and nasal discharges. Animals cannot eat, as the mouths get covered in painful erosive lesions and they suffer from severe pneumonia and diarrhoea.
Death is frequently the outcome. PPR is on the list of notifiable diseases.
Dr Juliet Sentumbwe, the director of animal resources at the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), said the disease started in Karamoja in 2007, but that they have discovered that it is spreading to other parts of the country.
Uganda has over 16 million small ruminants with four million sheep and 12 million goats.
Speaking during the annual stakeholder meeting on ‘boosting Uganda’s Investment in Livestock Development’, (BUILD), at Speke Resort Munyonyo, in Kampala, Sentumbwe said Uganda had committed itself to eradicating the disease by 2030, but worried that the cases are increasing.
She said the disease normally is associated with diarrhoea, mucus and tears, among others. She said since the symptoms of PPR are similar to some of other diseases affecting animals, this calls for more vigilance.
“Many farmers confuse it and may not be aware because PPR is not common in many parts of the country. By the time they point it out, and the investigations carried out by the ministry, many animals would have been affected,’’ she warned.
Whereas MAAIF has always vaccinated the animals against PPR, Sentumbwe said they lack enough resources to procure the vaccines in quantities.
Joseph Nkamwesiga, a PhD student at Free University Berlin Germany, who was presenting study findings on spatial analysis and transmission drivers for PPR in Uganda, said since they had identified the hotspots, there were chances of controlling the disease. Some of the hotspots include Nakaseke, Nakasongola, Kiruhura, Sembabule, Ntungamo, Rakai and Isingiro, among others.
During a meeting organised by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and MAAIF, Nkamwesiga said the disease was killing many animals.
He, however, said there was a reduction in the number of cases in Karamoja.
The study also revealed that there was no risk of the disease in Teso and West Nile sub-regions because of the way they graze their animals.
The animals are tied on a rope and the risk of them meeting sick animals is low.
In Uganda, like most countries in the sub-Saharan Africa, about 70% of the households keep at least one kind of livestock, including poultry.
Livestock production is limited by pathogens and losses faced by smallholder farmers due to disease or death.
Experts say there are effective solutions for animal health problems. However, knowledge, awareness about animal diseases and their risks, plus intervention options are limited in the country.
The BUILD project aims at supporting the existing structures by scaling solutions through a collaborative effort in research, extension and partnerships.