Chandigarh, March 4
With almost 85 per cent its rural population engaged in livestock activities, the outbreak of the foot and mouth disease (FMD) is posing a threat to Punjab’s rural economy. The first such case was reported in December from villages in Mohali. Since then, the number has grown.
The FMD lowers immunity and can be fatal. The state government sent some samples to the International Centre for Foot & Mouth Disease (ICFMD) in Bhubaneswar which has confirmed it is FMD. However, Animal Husbandry is playing down the outbreak, saying there had been “sporadic instances.” Department Director Dr Inderjit Singh claimed there was no reason for alarm whatsoever.
The disease is highly contagious and is bound to hit cattle trade. Every year, at least 900 cattle fairs are held in Punjab. Dr Inderjit Singh said such fairs could not be allowed in areas where FMD cases had been reported. Already, the state government has postponed the 11th National Livestock Championship which was to be held at Mohali.
The disease outbreak also raises questions on the state’s vaccination programme on which it reportedly spends Rs 12 crore annually. The government now plans to revamp the programme.