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No mechanism yet for animal inspection at Karachi livestock market

No mechanism yet for animal inspection at Karachi livestock market

KARACHI: Despite the looming threat of Congo virus which has claimed the lives of at least 16 people across the country in recent months, the authorities manning the livestock market off Super Highway are yet to adopt a proper mechanism for inspection of animals and the treatment required, it emerged during a visit to the market on Saturday.

So far 130,000 sacrificial animals have been brought to the country’s largest makeshift market spreading over 900 acres. It has been set up by the Malir Cantonment Board and facilitated by government departments.

A number of traders Dawn spoke to admitted that their animals hadn’t been subjected to any inspection so far and there was no restriction from the market administration to get their animals examined by a government vet posted at the market.

No inspection was seen at one of the unloading points visited by this reporter.

“They only counted the animals and asked for the market fee when I brought my animals here 10 days ago. Since then, no one has approached me for inspection of my animals,” said Allah Baksh, an animal trader from Rahim Yar Khan — a regular visitor to the cattle market.

Similar views were shared by a number of other traders. “From Rajanpur up to this market in Karachi, there was no inspection. But I had to pay a lot of money at the various checkposts, including a veterinary post set up in Nooriabad,” Ahmed, a trader from Sadiqabad, said, adding that no service was provided at the post, although the staff was charging Rs100 per animal in the name of health service.

Traders, a majority of them illiterate, knew about the ticks that got attached to the body parts of a wide range of domestic and wild animals and affected their health. But very few were aware of the fact that some ticks (of the Hyalomma genus) carried a dangerous virus (Nairovirus) which, if transmitted to humans, could cause death.

No one had the knowledge, though, that there was no animal or human vaccine for the deadly Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever (CCHF) caused by the virus.

The ticks were called ‘cheechar’ or ‘chuchar’ in local parlance.

“Last year, one of my cows was infected with foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) here in the market and I had to sell it off at a very low price. So, this year, I made a point to get all my animals treated for FMD, different types of fever and all kinds of parasites, including chuchar, before bringing them here,” said a trader.

One common complaint at the market was about the shortage of water. Traders said that although they had been charged heavily (Rs1,000 per animal and tax for transporting vehicle), the market administration was not providing them the required quantity of water.

“They are giving us free water, but that’s not sufficient to meet animals’ needs. In addition, food items as well as medicines being sold here are too expensive,” a trader complained.

Market administrator Jahangir Chaudhry claimed that veterinary care was being provided by more than 30 experts from the provincial livestock department and the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) and they were performing round-the-clock duty.

“Animals are inspected at the time of their unloading,” he said, adding that the market area had been fumigated prior to its establishment.

When asked about the data on animal inspection and the number of animals brought from Balochistan (the province has reported 22 Congo virus cases this year), he said: “We only register trader’s name, total number of animals he has brought and registration number of his vehicle.”

On the complaint about shortage of water, Jahangir Chaudhry pointed out that drinking water was wasted by traders who also used it for bathing and washing purposes. “We are only charging for four VIP blocks (from Rs110,000 to Rs130,000). The rest of the space is free for traders who are getting 24-hour security, electricity and water — all free of cost.”

In reply to question about the number of animals reported with ticks at the market, Dr Syed Mohammad Farooq, senior director of KMC veterinary services, said: “Not a single animal has so far been found to be unhealthy. If any animal is found with ticks, we will isolate it and ask the owner to take it away as it is not meant for slaughter.”

Asked what should be the standard procedure for inspection of animals during the high-risk time of Eidul Azha, the Dean of Faculty of Veterinary Sciences at Lahore’s University of Veterinary Sciences, Prof Masood Rabbani, said ticks usually got active on the onset of summer and a comprehensive awareness campaign should be launched well before Eid to minimise the chances of animal-to-human transmission of diseases.

“Farmers should adopt dipping and spraying methods to ward off ticks at the farm, while animal inspection should be put in place by the government at least a month prior to Eid at the border routes used by majority of the transporters to bring their animals to cities,” he suggested.

Inspection and veterinary support should also be available in animal markets. Animals with ticks could also be treated with certain injectable medicines, he pointed out. “These are very effective against internal and external parasites. But the drug is needed to be administered to a sacrificial animal at least two weeks before Eid to make its meat safe for human consumption.”

Prof Rabbani said ticks were often found deep inside the long ears, legs and armpits of animals. “One should take the animal to veterinary staff if it has temperature or any other visible problem.”

In reply to a question about the precautions animal buyers should adopt to avoid a tick-bite, he said the buyer should be accompanied by only one person; someone who knows how to identify a healthy animal.

“When you go to an animal market, wear light-colour or white clothes, gloves, long boots with socks and a cap to cover the head. This will help you avoid exposure to ticks and make their presence visible. Apply a good mosquito/insect repellent on the open areas of your body. Besides, shoes should be properly washed before entering the house,” he recommended.

According to him, the Congo virus with a 10 to 40 per cent fatality rate in humans rarely causes disease in animals.

But is it safe to consume meat of animals bitten by ticks?

He said: “Not all ticks carry viruses of public health importance like the CCHF. Second, the traditional style of our cooking kills every type of infectious organism, including the CCHF (Congo) virus. So, properly cooked food is safe to eat.”

According to the WHO, the CCHF virus can also be transmitted to humans through contact with infected animal’s blood or tissues during and immediately after slaughter.

Human-to-human transmission can occur resulting from close contact with blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of the infected persons. Hospital-acquired infections can also occur due to improper sterilisation of medical equipment, reuse of needles and contamination of medical supplies.

Balochistan and Punjab have each reported 22 Congo virus cases this year. Nine people have died because of the virus in Balochistan and four in Karachi.

With about two weeks left for Eidul Azha, big makeshift markets have been set up in and outside almost every big city in the country. Sale of sacrificial animals is already on, and soon tens of thousands of people will be visiting these markets to purchase animals of their choice. Here are some preventive and precautionary measures to avoid getting infected by the so-called Congo virus, which is transmitted through ticks on some of the infected animals.

• Make sure the body of the animal brought from CCHF-infested areas has been treated at the ‘entry point’ through direct application of insecticides (acaricides), preferably through hand-compression sprayer.

• Even at home make sure powder formulation or spray is applied on the animal’s back, belly, neck and back of the head.

• Insecticides treatment should be 12-15 days before slaughtering of animals.

• Spray residual insecticides on floor, lower areas of walls and nearby areas where the animal is being kept before slaughtering.

• While going near animals wear light-colour clothes so that tick is easily detected and removed.

• In case symptoms of possible Congo virus are obvious, immediately shift the affected person to hospital.

• Make sure that the place where the animal had been slaughtered is properly washed and the blood is not left outside the house.

• Avoid visiting areas where tick vectors are abundant.

• At animal market, avoid going near the animals without wearing gloves and long-sleeve shirts.

• Do not remove tick from animal’s body with bare hands. Instead use tweezers.

• Do not try to burn ticks. Instead put them in a bottle of chemical/insecticide.

• At the time of slaughtering, make sure that children are not near the animal.

• Avoid direct contact with the animal’s blood. However, properly cooked food is safe.

• Avoid handling animal hide with bare hands.

• Do not leave the animal’s remains inside or outside your house. Dispose them of carefully.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2016

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