Animal Husbandry Department confirms foot-and-mouth disease in Thiruvananthapuram

Though things are returning to a state of relative calm at the city zoo following the outbreak of feline panleukopenia virus (FPV) a couple of weeks ago, zoo authorities are a little concerned about another killer pathogen sneaking in. The Animal Husbandry Department (AHD) has confirmed that a couple of animals have been diagnosed with foot-and-mouth disease in two separate locations within the city limits — Ambalathara and in an area near Pappanamcode.

AHD officials have already created a three-km buffer zone around the spots where the infected animals were found. Since eradication of FMD has been high on the list of priorities for the department, almost every single cloven-hoofed animal in the district has been vaccinated. The shield effect of medicine expires after a period of six months and the department carries out door-to-door booster vaccination for a nominal cost of Rs.5. Embarking on a new round of doses on Thursday, the AHD prepares to vaccinate all animals across the State. It is expected to vaccinate 1.5 lakh animals in the district alone over the next 21 days. Cattle will also be provided with free treatment and disinfectants.

“Unvaccinated animals brought from outside the State could be a cause for the reappearance of the disease. There are agents who smuggle animals for slaughter from outside the State and they do not necessarily come in via roads marked by check-posts. All animals brought this way are checked, vaccinated, and certified as safe,” said an official with the AHD.

Sudden weather changes could also be a culprit. The department has also extended support to the city zoo, in terms of providing the manpower and the vaccine drug, Raksha-Ovac.

Since this virulent strain spreads through the air across a radius of up to three km, zoo authorities are braced for eventualities, despite assurances by the AHD that the situation is well under control.

Memories of the last disease outbreak in 2007 are still fresh as there were several casualties and drastic steps such as complete shutdown of the zoo for two weeks had to be taken. But this time, the authorities have so far carried out vaccination of 10 animals, including species such as the gaur and nilgai, which would at least reduce the effects of the disease.