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Feb 24, 2011

There was mad cow and now sore mouth disease among cattle

There are two major vesicular diseases that can affect cattle; the deadly foot and mouth disease and the vesicular stomatitis. The two viruses display similar symptoms among cattle, horses and pigs. And tonight at farms in the Lower Barton Creek area of Cayo, there are worrisome signs that the animals may be affected by what is commonly referred to as the sore mouth disease. On Wednesday the Belize Agricultural Health Authority quarantined three areas in Cayo.  News Five’s Marion Ali visited two of them today and filed this report.

Marion Ali, Reporting

The disease, Vesicular Stomatitis, known as Sore Mouth Disease locally, is suspected to be present among cattle and horses in the west of the country.  Since last week, three locations in the Cayo District have reported symptoms among their farm animals and there is a possibility that the disease could spread to pigs.

The symptoms are similar to the deadly foot and mouth disease, which has never been detected in Central America and the Belize Agricultural Health Authority, BAHA, feels that it is the milder virus, Vesicular Stomatitis, on the other hand, has been detected locally over the years and test results are expected soon.

Miguel de Paz

Dr. Miguel de Paz, Dir., Animal Health, BAHA

“We recently sent some samples; it should take about three days before we get confirmation from the reference laboratory in Panama. At this tim, we highly suspect vesicular stomatitis. There are other diseases that resemble this disease, so at this time its suspect vesicular stomatitis. We have the farms under pre-quarantine; in other words, we are not allowing the movement of pigs horses cattle out of the affected farms.”

Marion Ali

“Now how contagious is this disease? How deadly is it?”

Dr. Miguel de Paz

“The disease is important because it resembles other exotic diseases. This one that we suspect, we refer to it as an endemic disease—we normally get it every year. And the farmers are very familiar with this disease. They call it sore mouth. The mortality is low.  You can eat the meat, the meat is wholesome, it’s good to eat. Nevertheless, it is a zootomic disease meaning that it can be transmitted from human to animal—the live animal can transmit the disease to human and if the human is in close contact with that animal, a human would have flu-like symptoms.”

While the disease is not life-threatening to humans or animals, it does have other serious implications, such as economic pitfalls.  Chairman of Lower Barton Creek area, Isaak Firezen, says that currently between fifty and sixty heads of cattle from two camps in that area are suffering from the disease.  But because the entire area has been quarantined for thirty days, no sale of cattle or pigs can take place from those farms.  This converts into losses in the tens of thousands of dollars because while cows will graze in open pastures, pigs will need to be fed for the quarantine period.  And once they have surpassed their recommended weight, they begin to depreciate in value.  In the meantime Director of Animal health at BAHA, Doctor Miguel de Paz says farmers should look for signs to contain the virus from spreading.

Dr. Miguel de Paz

“The clinical signs would be vesicles and where do you see the vesicles? It’s on the lips, in the mouth—meaning the palette, the gum, the tongue. You can get vesicles on the tit of the other and just above the hoof of the coronary band. So the animal would be salivating, the animal would have lameness. Those are the signs that farmers should look for. If the farmers see those signs, they should call BAHA or the Ministry of Agriculture and we will respond. The other thing for the farmer to do is to isolate that animal just for it not to transmit to other animals.”

The disease was first noted last week when Svea Dietrich-Ward noticed symptoms in Almira, one of her breeding mares at Central Farm.

Svea Dietrich-Ward, Horse Breeder

“We thought the mare had been bitten by a scorpion because the nose was sore. And I asked Doctor Tesecum to look at her, which she did. And she also had a swelling and then the next thing she started having saliva around the lips and she was careful eating.”

Svea Dietrich-Ward

Marion Ali

“How is she doing now?”

Svea Dietrich-Ward

“She is improving now. The swelling has gone down.”

Doctor de Paz says the disease should disappear within two weeks.  Marion Ali for News Five.

As we said, the results are expected in the next few days and we will have an update on this story.

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