KOTA KINABALU, May 20 — The Sabah Agriculture and Fisheries Ministry said today it is taking every precaution to prevent the foot and mouth disease (FMD) that has been grappling neighbouring Indonesia from spreading to the state.
Its minister Datuk Seri Dr Jeffrey Kitingan, who is also deputy chief minister, said that Sabah is still officially FMD-free, a status recognised internationally by the World Organisation for Animal Health since 2005.
"The ministry has taken urgent measures to make it mandatory for all veterinary offices throughout Sabah to carry out rigorous medical inspections on all types of livestock to be transported to other districts,” he said.
Kitingan said his ministry also requires that all livestock movement to other districts be documented using movement forms or certificates issued by the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) with livestock health conditions properly and clearly stated.
The forms can be obtained from the same department at district offices.
FMD is a highly contagious disease that affects cloven-hoofed animals such as cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats and pigs.
FMD is one of the world's worst animal plagues, spread by direct contact with animals, animal products, by mechanical transfer via fomites and by the airborne route. The disease is characterised by blisters or sores around the mouth, muzzle, feet and teats, a tendency to lie down, as well as lethargy or depression.
It is often confused with hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD), a contagious virus which affects children under five years of age.
Humans do not get the animal disease, and animals do not get the human disease.
"Sabah is currently already fighting African Swine Fever, so we are trying to avoid FMD at all costs,” he said.
The ministry is advising farmers to impose strict bio-security requirements on all livestock farms such as installing vehicle sprayer, quarantining foreign workers particularly those from neighbouring Indonesia before allowing them to return to work, and prohibiting outside visitors from entering their farms.
"At this time, do not bring in additional livestock or meat products supplied from neighbouring countries with FMD cases into your farms,” said Kitingan.
Meanwhile, department director Dr Normah Yusop advised breeders to be on the lookout for FMD symptoms in their livestock.
The disease is characterised by a high fever that declines rapidly after two to three days, blisters inside the mouth that lead to excessive secretion of stringy or foamy saliva and to drooling, and blisters on the feet that may rupture and cause lameness.
"If you noticed any of these symptoms in your livestock, please contact DVS immediately. We need to contain this infection because it has the potential to wipe out our modest livestock industry,” she warned.
Indonesia is currently grappling with the re-emergence of the disease which has not been seen since 1986.
During the past weeks, thousands of cattle in six districts in Aceh and East Java provinces had reportedly been infected with the highly contagious viral disease resulting in the death of more than a dozen cattle.