Even a month after it was first noticed, the authorities are finding it difficult to contain the Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) out break in the district. FMD which was restricted to the low lying, western border of the district in the early phase has now spread to over 25 panchayats and two Municipalities, viz Kottayam and Vaikom.

According to Animal Husbandry Department authorities, over 3000 cattle heads have been afflicted with FMD during the past one month, though only375 are under treatment currently. The total number of deaths on account of FMD has been put at a whopping 60 cattle heads, though 45 of them are calves, which, strictly speaking, do not come under the FMD casualty.

The results of the samples taken from the affected cattle by national laboratories are yet to be announced, but authorities are moving ahead under the presumption that the virus causing the current outbreak was a variant of type ‘O’ virus, one of the most common in Kerala. The interim report from Indian Immunological Ltd. (IIL), the Hyderabad based, wholly owned subsidiary of National Dairy Development Board, had pointed to the presence of serum type ‘O’ strain in the samples.

However, since the cattle heads were subjected to vaccination programme which covered the ‘O’ strain, just before the outbreak, the initial suspicion is that the virus could be a variant of the ‘O’ strain. The final results are expected any time now, authorities said.

What bothers the authorities presently is the failure to contain the current outbreak, as vaccination was the only effective strategy against viral infections. This has forced them to restrict themselves to symptomatic treatment. With a new virus arriving on the scene they would have to change the current protocol in vaccination so that the new variant too was covered under the vaccination programme.

Effecting a change in the vaccination protocol is a complex process and need a policy change by the government. While the implementation of a new protocol would have no impact on the current out break, it would help to ward off future outbreaks.

Meanwhile, one silver lining in the otherwise depressing scenario was that unlike earlier out breaks when the yield of milk come to zero level, in many cases in the current outbreak, the yield has revived up to 60 per cent or more, in animals which were cured of the disease in many places, authorities pointed out.

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