SEVERAL villages in the Berea district are on high alert after the outbreak of a yet to be identified disease that has so far killed six cattle.
The deadly disease is reported to kill affected beasts in a matter of hours.
Villagers who spoke to the Lesotho Times said they initially mistook the disease for rabies but all the treatment that they have used have failed to work. Among the affected villages are Masoeling, Malumeleng, Khorong, Ha Nkhele, Har’a Mahetlane and Jordan all in the Berea district.
The villagers said the infected beasts typically behave as if they have rabies, bumping into and objects or structures in their way whether or not they are harmful while bellowing loudly. The beasts reportedly fall and die when they stop and this happens in a matter of hours.
Some of the affected villages are far apart, a situation that has made it difficult for the farmers to collaborate to find a cure.
‘Makoloi Ranyali from Masoeling village told the Lesotho Times this week that she was worried as she had already lost two cattle in four days.
When the Lesotho Times visited the village on Tuesday, one of the beasts that had died on Sunday was decomposing faster than usual while it unusually did not attract any flies. Even dogs from the community have reportedly shunned the meat from the animal.
The carcass of the beast which lies just 100 metres from her home in a valley depicted one that has been decomposing for several weeks.
The carcass is also not emitting any odour as normally does a dead animal in a matter of days.
Ms Ranyali said she learnt about the disease from her relatives from Jordan village, a several hours journey from her home.
“Two weeks ago, my relatives from Jordan told me that cattle from their village were dying from a disease whose traits were similar to those of rabies,” Ms Ranyali said.
“However, any infected cow would die in only two hours. I took it lightly because their village is far from here.
“I however, I was alarmed when I learnt that famers in Malumeng, Khorong, Ha Nkhekhe and Har’a Mahetlane had encountered similar problems. I know of six cows which were said to have died in the same manner.
“I then called one of my sons who live in Teyateyaneng asking them to buy me medication, explaining the symptoms. We injected my cows on Thursday when he brought the medication.”
She showed the Lesotho Times two boxes, one of which was for rabies injections and another labelled Terralon antibiotics.
To her despair, Ms Ranyali learnt the following day that one of her cattle had left a trail of destruction in the village of Khorong where her herd-boy had taken them to graze.
“On Friday the herd-boy came rushing in the afternoon explaining that one of the cows had destroyed people’s houses and kraals, chasing people in that village. He said is later stood still and within minutes collapsed and died.
“We injected the herd again but then on Sunday morning another one, the one lying in the valley started showing the same symptoms. It charged at people and we all sought refuge in the house. It banged its head on the walls with its head,” she narrated pointing at cracks in the wall of her house.
“All of a sudden it went quiet and we saw it run to the valley where it just collapsed and died also.”
Ms Ranyali said she was now waiting for her sons so that they could help her pay for the dames caused on fellow villagers property by her cattle.
She said they have avoided consuming the meat from the dead beasts fearing that it could have adverse health effects.
“The herd-boy managed to bury the first one where it died with the help of other villagers. However, he could not bury this one as there was no one to help him.
“It is shocking that even dogs have not mauled the beast because we would have noticed them or at least seen bones lying around. However, I do not know why the carcass seems to be losing flesh at such a shocking speed.’
Ms Ranyali said she is now worried as she is unaware the cause of the disease.
“At the moment it is still only cows but we feel helpless because we do not know the source of the disease and whether humans are at risk of being infected as well.”
Contacted for comment, Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Mahala Molapo said that as a long-time farmer he had not heard of such a disease before.
“As a farmer I find the disease very strange but then the communities have not notified our offices about the disease. However, I am notifying the ministry’s veterinary doctors so that they can start investigating so that we can d help the farmers,” Mr Molapo said.