Vector-Borne Diseases in Africa

Martin Wans
Written by
Martin Wans

From the vast Sahara Desert to the plains of the Serengeti, Africa is home to a diverse population of wild and domesticated animals. While these ecosystems are often known for the majesty of lion prides, roaming herds of water buffalo, and the silhouettes of a caravan of camels, pet ownership across the continent has also grown significantly in recent years.

This growth brings about new challenges for small animal veterinarians throughout the more than 50 countries spanning the second largest continent in the world. A lack of proper training and education, infrequent access to tools and resources and gaps in data collection have contributed to the spread of dangerous companion-vector borne diseases. These diseases can be transmitted to dogs and cats from fleas, ticks, sandflies, and mosquitos which can then be spread to their human owners.

African girl with dog

To combat this growing problem, Bayer supports an infectious disease surveillance program in the sub-Saharan area to help protect the health and well-being of cats and dogs. The program is run by the African Small Companion Animal Network (AFSCAN) and will provide novel data on the prevalence and distribution of external parasites and arthropod-borne infectious diseases of dogs and cats across six sub-Saharan African countries and will run throughout 2019.

The risk of vector-borne diseases is playing an increasingly important role worldwide. The causative agents of these significant diseases are usually transmitted with the bite of parasites. Examples of vector-borne diseases include ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, Lyme disease and babesiosis.

Emeritus Professor Michael J. Day, the project leader and a member of the AFSCAN and WSAVA Foundation Boards, is convinced that it is vital for veterinary practitioners to be equipped with the latest data to prescribe appropriate prevention to support the health and well-being of companion animals.

“This project will provide disease distribution maps for Africa, helping veterinarians to manage the control and prevention of these infections in veterinary practice,” says Day.

Members of the AFSCAN scientific project team
Dr. Dickson (Uganda), Dr. Aschenborn (Namibia), Dr. Adedayo Akande (Nigeria), Professor Day (UK, Project Leader), Dr. Johnson (Ghana), Dr. Nzalawahe (Tanzania) and Professor Githigia (Kenya)

The project will be undertaken by a team of six veterinary parasitologists from the participating countries: Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Namibia, Tanzania and Uganda. Each country will provide samples from 100 dogs and 50 cats from both urban and rural locations. The sample collection will be coupled with a local preventive campaign against external parasites like ticks, fleas and mosquitos.

“With the new data we will know which diseases occur in these regions areas,” comments Edingloh. “With this information we can better help veterinarians to protect pets.”

An effective management method is to treat cats and dogs with products that have a repellent effect to prevent the animals from being bitten. This is necessary for both healthy pets and infected or sick ones because they are the source of the parasite.

To find out more about the infectious disease surveillance program for companion animals in Africa please visit http://afscan.org/.

Veterinarians can view the latest knowledge on CVBDs at www.CVBD.org.

Martin Wans
Written by
Martin Wans