Atop government official has described the recent incidence of foot-and-mouth disease
in Rattanakkiri province as a "swell" rather than an outbreak.
Local media reported last week that nearly 10,000 cows and buffalo in Rattanakkiri
had been affected by foot-and-mouth disease, and that 60 calves had died from the
It was not clear whether the 10,000 estimate, attributed to the Ministry of Agriculture,
Forestry and Fisheries in an October 25 newspaper article, referred to mature animals
infected by, or exposed to, the virus.
Regardless, Yim Voeunthan, Secretary of State in the Ministry of Agriculture, told
the Post on November 3 that those figures were wildly inaccurate.
Voeunthan said he received a report on November 3 from ministry officials who traveled
to Rattanakkiri on October 25 to investigate reports of the disease and treat the
infected animals. He said that the findings showed that the virus had killed seven
cows and infected 1,190 cows and buffalo in two districts between October 8 and October
"[Aside from the cows that perished], officials reached the animals in time
and treated them," Voeunthan said, adding that many animals had already recovered.
Voeunthan was unable to compare the recent occurrence of foot-and-mouth in Rattanakkiri
to past episodes, and he acknowledged that baseline information is virtually nonexistent.
"It's very difficult to compare between years," he said.
Foot-and-mouth is a highly contagious viral disease that affects cloven-hoofed animals
including cattle, water buffalo, and pigs. Researchers agree that the virus is endemic
throughout Southeast Asia. Though not fatal for mature animals, it causes painful
sores, low milk production and miscarriages, - all of which cause serious production
In 2001, a foot-and-mouth outbreak in Britain led to the forced culling of nearly
four million sheep and cattle. In Cambodia, where many cows and buffalo are beasts
of burden, a foot-and-mouth outbreak translates into major difficulties in the cultivation
and harvest of rice and other crops.
The disease does not pose a serious threat to humans.
Confusion over the scope of the recent episode of Rattanakkiri underscores the difficulty
of disease surveillance in Cambodia.
Livestock experts say access to timely and accurate information is not readily available
to many veterinarians and farmers in rural areas, making it difficult to accurately
diagnose and treat foot-and-mouth.