Ministry of Agriculture officials will leave for Ratanakkiri this week to help treat more than 10,000 cases of foot-and-mouth disease affecting cows and buffalo in the province, officials said.
Kao Phal, director of the ministry’s Animal Health and Production Department, said on Sunday that the government was concerned the outbreak will be a blow to poor farmers.
But, he said, vaccines for the disease are still not included in the ministry’s budget.
“The government is worried when more cows and buffalo get foot-and-mouth disease. Farmers will have nothing for cultivation and transportation,” Kao Phal said. “Our officials will leave Phnom Penh Wednesday to help intervene to treat them and instruct farmers how to take care of them and how to treat them by Khmer traditional medicine.”
Chhoeng Sokhon, deputy director of the provincial agriculture department, said that the disease—hardly seen in the province for a decade—manifested itself first in late July, and that the number of cases spiked in October, according to reports he received from five of Ratanakkiri’s nine districts.
The illness, which weakens mature cows but is often fatal for calves, has killed 60 calves since August.
“For 10 years we had no serious foot-and-mouth disease. Now, it is serious in the province for cows and buffalo,” he said. “It is a chronic and widespread infection.”
The disease can be transmitted in water or by direct contact, and, though it can be treated, it leaves lasting damage to cattle.
Chhoeng Sokhon said provincial veterinarians are treating some infected livestock with vitamin injections, and are advising farmers to use traditional Cambodian remedies, such as poultices made from tree bark.
Money for vaccines, however, seems a long way off.
“People are poor and we have no vaccine, and the government has no funds for it,” Chhoeng Sokhon said.
Kao Phal confirmed that the government could not provide vaccines, noting that the cost of vaccinating the nation’s estimated 3.6 million cattle—at up to $1.50 per animal—was prohibitive.
“I hope we will have some funds for this vaccine next year,” he said.
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