Even two months after it was first noticed, the authorities are finding it difficult to contain the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in the district. The disease, which was restricted to Mananthavady taluk in the early phase, has now spread to Sulthan Bathery and Vythiri taluks as well.
According to officials of the Animal Husbandry Department, 450 cattle heads have been affected with the disease during the eight-month period between February and September, of which 15 died. Notably, only four deaths were reported in the district last year. The department had launched a campaign to vaccinate the entire cattle population in the district against the disease and the programme had covered around 70 per cent of the total cattle population. It was implemented with the assistance of the Central and State governments, to treat the affected cows and also identify new cases, if any, across the district. The preventive measures included a ring vaccination, under which all the cattle of a particular area would be vaccinated even if only one was found to have the disease. The officials, however, denied that the disease had acquired epidemic proportions.
According to the officials, the outbreak of the foot-and-mouth disease has been confirmed in neighbouring states also and it was feared that the cattle that contracted the disease were sent to Wayanad, to be slaughtered and sold as beef. Though there is strict surveillance at border check-posts, it is alleged that vehicles carrying cattle enter the district unchecked through various forest roads. Preliminary investigations by the department show that the disease has spread to Wayanad from cattle brought from the neighbouring states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
The officials said the vaccines would become effective only 21 days after vaccination. This makes the local cattle vulnerable to the disease.