However a national Gid disease prevention and control plan was launched at the recent Royal Highland Festival
Disease: Ask any highlander and they will tell you that Guyoom kills.
Guyoom is a disease called Gid that has killed 2,100 yaks in the past three years in the highlands of Haa, Paro, Thimphu, Gasa and Bumthang.
It has claimed 9,464 yaks in the past 15 years.
It affects the brains of young yaks aged one to three years and ultimately, in most cases, kills them painfully.
Dorji, a yak herder from Wangtsa, Haa, lost at least two yaks to the disease every year.
“Unlike other diseases, it is really painful for the animals,” he said. The yaks keep turning to the right if the parasite is located on the right side of the brain, writhing in pain.
Gid is a disease of the central nervous system in yaks and sheep, caused by the larval stage of the tapeworm Taenia multiceps, which infects the small intestine of carnivores.
In Bhutan, yak dogs are considered as the principle host responsible for transmission of the disease to yaks.
Herders use yak dogs to control and protect yaks from wild predators. In the process, the yaks are infected by the dogs’ faeces contaminated with the parasite.
Livestock extension officer of Soe gewog, Namgay, said the disease affects at least 11 percent of the yak population in the gewog. At least 25 yaks die in the gewog because of the disease each year.
“The casualties however is decreasing,” Namgay said.
Since 2014, the gewog extension officials started deworming the yaks and dogs every three months. Sterilisation of dogs is also regularly organised.
Yak rearing is one of the oldest occupations and main means of livelihood for highlanders in the country.
Since the 1950s, the disease has been affecting the young yak population, resulting in severe mortality and severely impacting the yak herders’ livelihoods.
Chief Veterinary Officer of the agriculture ministry’s Livestock Health Division, Dr Karma Rinzin, said: “Such aspects therefore require priority intervention.”
The agriculture ministry launched a National Gid Disease Prevention and Control Plan recently during the recent Royal Highland Festival in Laya, Gasa.
Livestock officials also carried out an awareness campaign for yak herders during the festival.
Livestock officials said that although various control measures were tried, they did not work mainly because of a lack of effective coordination.
Dr Karma Rinzin said that the plan is different from the previous strategies and provides ready reference including standard operating procedures on aspects of the disease, and prevention and control programme.
The disease is prevalent in Haa, Paro, Thimphu, Gasa, and Bumthang as of last year. The disease is not reported in yak-rearing areas in the eastern dzongkhags of Trashigang, Trashiyangtse, and Lhuentse. In Wangdue, the disease has not surfaced since 2007.
Livestock officials said the farmers should dispose of the head and spinal cord of yaks that have died of the disease, deworm yaks and dogs, and report deaths to extension officials for post mortem.
The plan requires any case to be reported half-yearly to the National Centre for Animal Health with copies to dzongkhags and regional livestock development centres.
Periodic surveys and examinations of the wildlife faeces and dogs will be carried out to understand the prevalence and transmission of the parasite.