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Foot-and-mouth 'swell' confirmed in Rattanakkiri

Foot-and-mouth 'swell' confirmed in Rattanakkiri

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

disease.

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

11.

"[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

losses.

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.

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