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Kerala - Thiruvananthapuram Printer Friendly Page   Send this Article to a Friend

Anthrax threat in State; authorities on the alert

C. Maya

Ban on movement of cattle across the border

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Even as the State Government has initiated all steps to counter the threat of anthrax disease from across the border, including a ban on the movement of cattle from neighbouring Tamil Nadu, entry of infected animals into the State through illegal routes is a distinct possibility that cannot be discounted.

The Government on Saturday issued orders banning the movement of cattle across the border after it was confirmed that the death of a large number of cattle in Koduvilarpatti village in Theni district in Madurai had been due to anthrax. The transport of cattle through the check-posts at Idukki, Palakkad, Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram has been banned till further notification, Animal Husbandry director B. Ashok said.

The checks at the inter-State check-posts have been made more stringent. More staff have been posted there. Preventive vaccination against anthrax has been launched in the border panchayats. Wildlife wardens have been asked to monitor wild animals for any signs of anthrax, as the chance of the disease spreading through wild animals cannot be ruled out.

Officials of the Animal Husbandry Department said the State has never faced a serious threat of anthrax so far because of the regular vaccination programme for cattle here. However, since 1998, isolated incidents of anthrax are being reported regularly from certain pockets in the State, like Kodungallur and Mullakkara in Thrissur district and in some areas in Palakkad.

Palakkad district is especially susceptible to the incidence of anthrax as truckloads of animals arrive here from other States on a regular basis. Last year, two incidents of anthrax were reported in the State, from Panachikkad in Kottayam and from Palakkad district.

The Government as part of the Animal Disease Control Project or Goraksha project launched last year has put in some checks, including a stipulation that vaccinated animals alone can be moved across the border.

As almost 90 per cent of the animals coming across the border are headed towards slaughter houses, people who consume meat are advised to exercise caution.

Anthrax, a bacterial disease found primarily in herbivorous domestic animals, is caused by Bacillus anthracis, spores of which can survive in the environment for years. One can reasonably suspect anthrax if there is copious flow of dark blood from all orifices in the carcass.

Confirmation can be done only through blood tests and no post-mortem examination of the diseased animals should be done. Humans can contract the disease directly or indirectly through occupational exposure to infected animals or through careless handling of animals.

The Veterinary Biological Institute at Palakkad has been producing the vaccine against anthrax but this is supplied usually only in anthrax-prone pockets as the disease has almost been eradicated from the State, Director of Animal Disease Control Project, Vijaya Kumar, said.

After the Goraksha project was initiated, all animals coming into the State through official check-posts are screened for infectious diseases like anthrax and haemorrhagic septicemia. "Control of animal movement across the border is part of the project. Trained personnel of the Animal Husbandry Department are posted at the check-posts, who check the animals and affix an ear tag on them. We also insist on a regular veterinary surgeon's certificate that every animal was vaccinated 21 days ahead," Dr. Vijaya Kumar said.

Last year, about the same time, when an anthrax outbreak had been reported at Karnataka's border district of Coorg, the entry of animals into Kerala through Iritty in Kannur had been stopped by the department.

A fee of Rs.8 is charged for every animal thus checked, tagged and allowed across the border. Hence, illicit routes are plenty, AH officials pointed out.

Though there are some check-posts on by-routes also, clandestine movement of cattle across the border is a risk that cannot be wished away, director of Animal Husbandry B. Ashok said.

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