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Livestock disease alert in N-E

Guwahati, Jan. 18: The region that consumes 50 per cent of the country’s pork is staring at an outbreak of classical swine flu and a host of other dreaded livestock diseases in the coming two months, experts have predicted.

The project directorate on animal disease monitoring and surveillance, Bangalore, has warned that four livestock diseases, including haemorrhagic septicaemia, black quarter, foot-and-mouth disease and classical swine fever, will hit the Northeast in February-March.

The directorate, which is under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, uses a unique software under the national animal disease referral expert system which can predict outbreak of diseases in a particular state in the next two months.

“The forecasting is based on retrospective disease data and weather-based disease forecasting models using different techniques,” H. Rahman, project director at the Bangalore centre, told The Telegraph.

Data of the last 25 years has been considered for the current forecast.

The director has predicted that haemorrhagic septicaemia, black quarter, foot-and-mouth disease may occur in Meghalaya and Mizoram.

Foot-and-mouth disease and classical swine flu have been predicted in Assam for February and March and haemorrhagic septicaemia in March.

Rabies has been predicted in Nagaland and Meghalaya.

“Necessary steps are being taken to inform the state governments regarding the availability of such prediction to help them initiate suitable control measures,” he said.

“Forecasting/forewarning of the diseases will not only help in their prevention and control through timely vaccinations but also helps in taking steps to arrest the spread of the disease to other parts of the region,” he added.

“If we can prevent all these diseases, farmers’ income will increase,” Rahman said, adding that the diagnostic facilities in the region are not very satisfactory.

Livestock, especially pig and poultry, is a key livelihood ingredient in the Northeast.

A study conducted by the International Livestock Research Institute in 2007 found that there was an increase in demand of livestock products in the region.

In Nagaland, the demand for pork has increased from 15 to 25 per cent over the past seven years.

It has been estimated that 25 per cent of the pig population in the country is in the Northeast, 80 per cent of indigenous families keep a few pigs (generally two to three) and that the region consumes 50 per cent of the country’s pork, according to Indian Council of Agricultural Research.

“Accurate information about the health status of animal population is critical in the fight against livestock diseases and this forms the basis for initiating disease control strategies through optimal utilisation of meagre funds, veterinary resources and manpower,” Rahman said.

Prediction, however, is only the beginning of the battle.

“A large majority of farmers in Northeast do not get access to good veterinary facilities. If diseases hit the livestock of the farmers, it is a big loss for them,” said Rameshwar Deka, scientific officer at the Northeast office of International Livestock Research Institute in Guwahati.


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