KARACHI, Sept 20: While two more sheep on Thursday morning were found dead at a private farm raided by government officials a day ago bringing the death toll to five within the two days, vets apprehended that the imported flock of sheep might have been infected with anthrax — an infectious disease that can cause death among animals and humans.
The sheep flock at the raided farm were reportedly brought from the nearby PK Livestock and Meat Company premises where culling of imported Australian sheep continued on a fifth consecutive day on a government directive.
The animals were found to be infected with foot-and-mouth disease and harmful bacteria in reports of two government laboratories.
The animals at both farms have not been counted so far though they are estimated to be over 3,000 at the raided farm.“Signs of bleeding from the body orifice, presence of un-clotted blood and marked bloating and rapid decomposition of the carcass are vital indications that led us to suspect anthrax,” said Dr Nazeer Hussain Kalhoro, member of a veterinary board constituted by the Sindh High Court to determine the health status of imported Australian sheep.
“However, we have decided to wait for the laboratory reports before declaring it an ‘anthrax-infected’ farm,” he added.
According to Dr Kalhoro, a number of animals at the farm were found sick while action had been initiated late in the evening to burn and dispose of carcasses.
The blood samples taken from the carcasses were sent to the Central Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (CVDL), Tandojam, whereas samples from animals at both farms had been sent to the National Veterinary Laboratories, Islamabad, CVDL Tandojam and the Sindh Poultry Vaccine Centre in Karachi on the court’s instructions.
The veterinary team comprised Dr Asif Manzoor (veterinary officer at the livestock department), Dr Prakash Dewani (research officer), Dr Mohammad Ilyas (quarantine officer), Dr Ali Akbar Soomro (head of the Poultry Research Institute) and Dr R.H. Usmani (member of the Pakistan Agriculture Research Council).
It is surprising that government officials ‘discovered’ the farm only on Wednesday night despite the fact that it is located at a walking distance from the PK Livestock premises.
According to the information gathered from the spot, the animals were of the same Australian flock and were shifted here during recent rains. The farm lacked proper arrangements for drinking water for the animals, and they were found to be quenching their thirst at a pond filled with dark-coloured water that seemed to have collected during the rains.
Wellard Rural Exports staff from whom the PK Livestock and Meat Company had purchased 22,000 sheep was present at the raided farm, now declared sealed by the government, but they refused to comment on the situation.
Upon contact, deputy commissioner of Malir Qazi Jan Mohammad said that more than 7,000 sheep had already been culled at the PK Livestock premises by Thursday evening. “We are suspending the work right now, as butchers have started leaving for the holiday declared on Friday,” he said, adding that culling would resume on Saturday.
Anthrax occurs worldwide and is associated with sudden death of cattle and sheep, according to the information available on the net.
It can infect all warm-blooded animals. The anthrax organism (Bacillus anthracis) has the ability to form spores and become resistant to adverse conditions. Outbreaks typically occur when livestock are grazing on neutral or slightly alkaline soil. Infection in cattle, sheep, or horses usually is the result of grazing on infected pasture land. The organisms usually enter through the mouth, and less often via nose or skin injury. Following ingestion or inhalation, the organisms spread rapidly throughout the entire body.
Dead animals that are opened and not burned or buried provide an ideal source of the organism. It is imperative that diseased carcasses be cremated (burned to ashes) or buried deep and covered with quick lime before covering with soil.
Humans may become infected by handling contaminated hides or wool, or by examining infected carcasses.
It is worth noting here that the Australian company and the local importer are contesting government claim about the sheep’s health status as the matter is pending in the Sindh High Court that has sought a report within seven days from the veterinary board.