Outbreak of Deadly Disease Threatens Cows

When a cow recently died in a Kompong Thom village province, the villagers cut it up, cooked it and shared the meat with their im­poverished neighbors—a dangerous action.

The cow was one of 30 to die in August in Tumnop village, Prasat Sambo district, of the deadly livestock disease hemorrhagic septicemia, according to Mak Yuth­anea, the province’s chief veterinarian.

Humans can become slightly ill but cannot die of the disease, he said. But people who eat infected meat can pass on the disease to more cows—though he said it’s unclear how—and the villagers should have buried the dead cow to prevent further infection.

Mak Yuthanea said the current outbreak of hemorrhagic septicemia is the worst ever to hit the province. He said about 500 cattle and buffaloes have died of injuries and various diseases so far this year; it was not clear how many of the deaths had resulted from hemorrhagic septicemia.

Officials said previously that the disease had also affected parts of Battambang province.

Provincial officials are in the process of vaccinating 750,000 cows in Kompong Thom, part of a nationwide effort, officials said. The campaign hopes to vac­cinate about 1 million cows in the areas most affected by the disease.

Kao Phal, director of the Ani­mal Health and Production de­part­ment in the Ministry of Agri­culture, said the vaccination effort is crucial to protect livestock from a full-scale epidemic once the rainy season ends and the rivers recede. Once new grass starts to grow, it will carry the disease that lurks in the mud, he said.

The 350 million-riel (about $87,500) campaign began in mid-August and will end next month, Kao Phal said. “We are very worried about our livestock. We want them to stay healthy to help farmers produce the dry-season rice,” he said.

Later this month, the ministry will issue a directive appealing to farmers to better feed their animals to prevent exhaustion and disease, he added.

The hemorrhagic septicemia outbreak comes at a time when cattle—like people—are already suffering from hunger and overwork because of this year’s se­vere drought. In Takeo pro­vince, cows have been falling down from exhaustion as they plow the fields, Kao Phal said.

The directive will state, “Like a human being, an animal is not a machine that we can order to do whatever we want. [If we treat it this way] we will lose it.”

Cambodia is estimated to have more than 3.5 million cattle.


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