With cattle in seven of the 10 gewogs of Paro dzongkhag infected with foot and mouth disease (FMD), officials are worried that the disease might spread to animals in the highlands of Yaktsa and Nubri in Tsento gewog.

Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) officials deployed two inspectors at Gungnyetsawa check post to control the movement of live animals towards the highlands. This means that horses ferrying tourist luggage are also not allowed to travel for now.

Nubri and Yaktsa are the main grazing areas for highlanders from the dzongkhag with more than 5,000 yaks roaming freely.

Senior veterinary officer, Dr Chendu Dorji, who is leading the team, said that although the outbreak had spread widely in the dzongkhag, there is no need to panic.

He said that the outbreak had not spread outside the dzongkhag as control measures were in place with inspecting teams set at all strategic points.

So far at least forty officials have been assigned for the investigation, treatment, and surveillance in the gewogs.

Officials who were at Zamkha in Tsento gewog informed the farmers to keep their cattle near their homes for few weeks as the outbreak has already reached Jana goenpa.

Officials reasoned that there are high chances of spreading the disease to Yaktsa and Nubri.

To date, the team has treated more than 700 infected animals in the dzongkhag but it might take a few weeks to control the outbreak.

BAFRA’s regulatory and quarantine inspector, Ugyen Choden, told people to wash their hands and legs after visiting affected places.

Officials say that the outbreak in the dzongkhag is spreading widely because of free grazing practice, which makes it easier for animals to move freely from one gewog to another.

They also pointed out say that farmers were not cooperating to vaccinate their cows annually to prevent such diseases.

One official said that when the inspecting team reaches the far-flung villages, people hide the cattle and do not allow them to vaccinate it because they believe it affects milk production.

Dr Chendu Dorji said that records maintained in the dzongkhag show that at least 20 percent of the cattle in the dzongkhag were not vaccinated this year.

The dzongkhag production officer, Kinley Rinchen, explained to farmers that there might be some minor problems post vaccination but there is no scientific proof of milk production being reduced.

The dzongkhag is still receiving new cases everyday. Only Shaba, Dogar and Naja gewogs are not affected by the outbreak.

Officials have also vaccinated cattle belonging to people of Haa and Thimphu as a precautionary measure.

Officials say that despite numerous awareness programmes, people are still discarding carcasses in the river. Recently, the inspecting team pulled out few carcasses from the Pachhu. They said that such activities could further spread the disease as animals from the unaffected gewogs of Shaba and Dogar drink from the Pachhu.

Tashi Tenzin |  Paro