tickborne diseases

Monze

The project’s theileriosis immunization work took place in the Monze area of the Southern Province of Zambia. So, Monze became one of my most visited places while in Zambia. Usually, I stayed at the New Monze hotel that offered very basic facilities but warm people that made up for this shortcoming. After Giuseppe and Anders arrived and found houses, I stayed with them whenever they had room for me.

Apart from our rather weird evening at the New Monze [1] the hotel only had a trickle of water coming out of its taps and, although morning ablutions were possible as water accumulated overnight, bathing was another story (it had no showers). So, I left the tap open for the whole day and by the evening I had collected sufficient water to have a (cold) bath (better than no bath!).

Another attraction of the hotel was a bar/disco that functioned next to the hotel and that, particularly on weekends, was “the place” to be in Monze. Although I did not frequent it very often, on occasions I would get an invitation to enjoy a Mosi beer there. It was at that time that I observed the customers of the bar to order not one beer but a crate! They would then carry it with them, place it under their chair and enjoy its contents with the results that you can imagine!

Beer was indeed an important part of Zambian life (as in other African countries as well) and I always thought that there would be severe riots if the beer trucks were not able to deliver their cargo to the various destinations around the contry!

Our activities took place in Hufwa, an area, about twenty kilometres from Monze. The place was chosen because the farmers there were suffering severe losses from theileriosis. The calf mortality was such that there were not enough to keep the cattle numbers going! As in other countries affected by theileriosis, as a last resort, they would cauterize the swollen lymph nodes of their cattle in an attempt at saving them.

An animal showing a healing cauterized lymph node. (Picture by Giuseppe).

The approach we used was not a conventional vaccination, but a process known as the “infection and treatment” method. You would inject a small (calibrated) dose of the live parasite and, at the same time, a drug (tetracycline) that would control the multiplication of the Theileria parasite allowing the immunity to take hold. The result, after about a month, was a protected animal!

The Theileria parasites being injected.
Tetracycline being injected.

Not surprisingly, when the Government with our support offered to immunize their calves, the demand went beyond our expectations and we received requests from many other areas that we could not attend because our funds were limited. Most villages in Hufwa were willing to immunize their young animals and, before we could start we held several meetings with the cattle owners to organize the work.

Early mornings in Zambia can be quite cold.

Villages were grouped by area, asked to build cattle holding pens and given a time and date to bring their animals to the newly build holding facilities. Most villages complied and the work went usually smoothly. Despite this, I recall a “rebel” village that refused to come and, when we arrived to do the work, there was still a gap in the pen where that village was meant to do the building! [2]

The newly built crushpen holding the cattle.

Government veterinarians, supported by Giuseppe and Anders worked hard and soon they have covered most of the population of the area and we started to monitor the health of the immunized cattle while all newly born calves were immunized once they reached the right age. The results were very promising and, after a couple of years, there was an important increase in the cattle population, although the animals were still suffering from other diseases.

Giuseppe was the first to come to live in Monze and rented a house in town while, later, Anders found a house in the outskirts of the city. His house had a bit of land and he kept chickens and turkeys for meat and eggs as he liked to eat fresh food. Giuseppe, like any good Italian (including my wife), was a great cook and, of course, he brought with him lots of pasta, tomato sauce and other Italian specialties to “survive” in the bush.

Although house security in Monze was better than in Lusaka, there were some robberies taking place, so he recruited a night watchman that, as most do, went to sleep immediately after the house activities stopped. Giuseppe was very tolerant of this until one day that we were returning from dining at a friend’s house, quite late at night.

As usual, Giuseppe hooted at the gate and waited for it to be opened. When this did not happened after he hooted three or four times, an upset Giuseppe decided to investigate and he climbed his house perimeter fence to go inside. As we stayed outside, we could not see the events but only heard what happened. “Mr. Mishet, Mr. Mishet” called Giuseppe while looking for the man, while we thought we heard someone snoring!

After some silence, we heard someone muttering an unclear answer coming from someone that just wakes up and then more from Giuseppe “you were sleeping” followed by a more clear negative reply! Eventually Mr. Mishet, sleep walked to the gate and opened it for us to enter. The following morning, Mishet had already left by the time we got up so, by the time he returned in the evening, Giuseppe had cooled down and he only gave Mr. Mishet a reprimand that worked for a while.

As expected with a watchman that did not stay alert, eventually the house was broken during one of Giuseppe’s absences. Luckily, he was keeping his valuables well-hidden, and the robbers only took small items such as food from the fridge, stationery and other small items. When Giuseppe went to report the incident at the police station, his hopes of the robbers being caught were rapidly dashed when he recognized one of his favourite pens being used by the policeman to write the robbery report! He did not say anything, finished the report, got his copy and walked home to continue with his life.

[1] See: https://bushsnob.com/2021/03/28/reinforcements-arrive/

[2] After the first year of immunizing cattle in the area, seeing that most of the calves survived, the Headman of that village came to plead with us to immunize their animals. We did.