Foot and Mouth Disease Outbreak in Northern Armenia

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The authorities in the northwestern Armenian province of Shirak are taking emergency measures to contain an outbreak of the foot-and-mouth livestock disease in several local villages which they say has already affected about 300 animals.

Officials from the provincial administration in Gyumri told RFE/RL on Tuesday that some 75,000 cows and bulls have already been inoculated against the dangerous disease that all but devastated cattle farming in Britain last year.

The authorities were alerted to the outbreak earlier this month by residents of several Shirak villages close to the Turkish border after they noticed blisters on their cattle’s hooves and mouths – the first symptoms of the disease. The blisters then spread to internal organs–eventually killing the livestock.

A senior official from the agricultural department at the local government–Vartan Petrosian–said all the infected animals have been slaughtered and their carcasses burned and buried. He said there is no need for a large-scale preventive slaughter of the cattle.

The chief veterinarian of the nearby town of Akhurian–Gurgen Galstian–likewise assured that the outbreak has been localized and will not spread to other parts of Armenia. "Thanks to the livestock inoculations–the disease is now under control," he said.

The officials said they have not yet determined the causes of the foot-and-mouth disease. Galstian suggested that the infection might have been brought by a small local river flowing into Armenia from Turkey.

Foot-and-mouth outbreaks have not been uncommon in Armenia over the past several decades–forcing authorities to periodically quarantine the affected rural areas. They have never reached a scale that would threaten the country’s entire agricultural sector.

Foot-and-mouth disease spreads among cloven-hoofed animals like pigs and cows–but is not dangerous to humans. The disease swept through several western European countries last year–inflicting huge damage. In Britain–which bore the brunt of the epidemic–it affected more than 2,000 farms and led to the slaughter of more than 4 million animals.

A foot-and-mouth outbreak of similar scale hit South Korea last May. Authorities there have since culled over 160,000 livestock–mostly pigs–at farms in central South Korea.

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