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Foot & mouth alert as 60 cattle heads, 8 captive animals perish in Punjab

Going viral: Deaths in Chhatbir zoo, nearby villages, central zoo authority shoots off letters to states, UTs; officials in tizzy

punjab Updated: Feb 23, 2018 10:32 IST
Shub Karman Dhaliwal and Nihi Sharma
Shub Karman Dhaliwal and Nihi Sharma
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Foot & mouth,Foot & mouth alert,60 cattle heads
Since January, Chhatbir zoo has lost eight animals, including a blackbuck, a chowsingha, a mouse deer and a bison, to the viral disease that has spread in Chhat and Gager villages too.(HT File photo)

Highly contagious foot and mouth disease has reportedly killed over 60 cattle heads in villages in the vicinity of Mahendra Chaudhary Zoological Park in Chhatbir in the past two months, throwing officials into a tizzy and triggering an alert in nearby states.

Since January, the zoo has also lost eight captive animals — including a gaur, blackbuck, chowsingha, mouse deer, gorals and a bison — to the viral disease that has spread in Chhat and Gager villages adjoining the park.

The disease has a high mortality rate and spreads at a rapid pace.

“We first reported five mortalities till January 22 and thereafter three more casualties were recorded till February 15. However, we took immediate measures and with the help of veterinary officers and experts of Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI) in Bareilly managed to contain the spread,” zoo director M Sudhakar said.

Deadly disease
  • The foot and mouth disease is prevalent in hoofed animals like cows, pigs, sheep, goats and deer.
  • Veterinary experts say picornavirus causes blisters/lesions in mouth and feet of hoofed animals. The disease is characterised by incapability of animals to stand. This is coupled with high fever.
  • In herbivores, the disease spreads through grazing ground.

Immediately, teams comprising range officers were sent to the villages adjoining the zoo, he said. “The teams reported that more 60 cattle heads have perished due to the disease in the two villages. We then asked the animal husbandry department authorities to start vaccination of the livestock,” added Sudhakar. He said they also held a meeting with animal husbandry department officials.

Earlier, diseases like leptospirosis and haemorrhagic septicaemia have been reported in the past in captive animals of the park.

Gauging the seriousness of the issue, the Central Zoo Authority has issued a circular to all states and UTs asking to coordinate with their animal husbandry departments for implementation of the foot and mouth disease control programme.

The Himalayan states, including Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir, also took immediate steps to scan the captive animals.

Meanwhile, dairy farmers of other villages near the park have reported deaths of livestock due to the suspected viral disease. Prem Singh Jenty of Jagatpura village said his five cows and eight calves have perished in the last few days due to the foot and mouth disease. “I have 150 buffaloes and about 80 cows and have vaccinated the entire livestock,” he added.

Sukhwinder Singh of Nadiala village claimed he had to buy the vaccine for his cattle from Rajpura after the animal husbandry department told him that they had no stock available.

Animal husbandry department director Dr Amarjeet Singh said he had placed an order of 72 lakh vaccine vials that are expected to reach from Hyderabad soon.

Amarjeet said the vaccination was done in May-June last year and after that no report of the disease had come from any part of the state. Farmers, however, claimed no vaccination had been conducted for the last two years.

First Published: Feb 23, 2018 10:31 IST