Investigations into the rapid spread of glanders, a fatal disease affecting Equidae, have resulted in panic sale of horses by stud farm owners across Gujarat.
So far, 44 positive cases have been reported in Gujarat, and 33 equines have been “put to sleep (culled)” since outbreak of the disease was detected in January this year, said Bhagirath Patel, deputy director of animal husbandry, Jamnagar.
Veterinary officers said Saurashtra horse owners panicked when they were told that their animals could be infected with Burkholderia mallei, the bacteria that cause glanders, and resorted to selling their horses to prevent loss.
The disease is characterised by serial development of ulcerating nodules that are most commonly found in the upper respiratory tract, lungs and skin.
“More than 33 equines have been put to sleep. We have collected samples of all the equines (horses, donkeys and related animals) kept in a five km radius of Jamnagar city. Samples of 50 per cent of randomly selected animals in Jamnagar taluka have also been collected and sent to National Research Centre on Equines in Hissar, Haryana for testing,” said Patel. Veterinary officers have issued a notification banning the sale and transportation of equines.
The outbreak of glanders was reported when cases came to light at Chiyada village in Bavla taluka of Ahmedabad. According to veterinarians, some donkeys bought to Chiyada as beasts of burden for brick kilns suffered from glanders and from there the disease started to spread.
Since then, cases have been reported from Kheda, Banaskantha and Patan in north and central Gujarat and Bhavnagar, Jamnagar and Gir Somnath districts of Saurashtra.
“As soon as owners come to know that their horses have been affected by glanders bacteria and will have either to be put to sleep or shall die of the disease, they swiftly sell the animals to less experienced people to reduce their loss. Depending on its breed and health, a horse can fetch a price from Rs 60,000 to Rs 2.5 lakh. Compared to this, the state government compensation for culling a horse is Rs 25,000 only. Therefore, they try to reduce their losses by selling their horse at some discount,” Ramesh Vala, deputy director of animal husbandry in Botad district said.
“Soon after reports of four horses in Palitana town came positive for glanders and owners came to know of it, they started selling their animals. One of them was sold in Amreli district. We had no option but to trace that horse to Amreli and euthanise it there. A few weeks after that, reports of three more horses in Palitana came positive, and the owner managed to sell and transport one of them to Jamna gar. That horse had to be put to sleep in Jamnagar,” said Reva Mali, in-charge deputy director of animal husbandry of Bhavnagar district.
The transportation of the male horse from Palitana apparently brought the infection to Jamnagar and took the life of another equine. The male horse in question was purchased by one Hanif Rabia, a resident of Nageshwar area of Jamnagar. Weeks later, veterinary officers told Rabia that reports of his two male horses had come positive and that they will have to be put to sleep. Accordingly, both of them were culled last Saturday.
Ghanchi, however, claimed that he thought the horse was alright. “Veterinarians came to my home three months ago and took samples of my horses. They asked me to quarantine the white male. I did so accordingly and nobody came back to me to convey the result for almost one-and-half-months. Then I thought the horse was healthy and, therefore, sold it to Rabia for Rs 50,000,” said Ghanchi.
A similar case also was reported from Veraval in Gir Somnath. After veterinarians took blood samples of his three horses for the second time, saying they could be affected by glanders, Kishor Gareja sold one of them in Palitana. Rajsi Solanki, deputy director of animal husbandry of Gir Somnath, said the horse subsequently died in Palitana. The remaining two horses were euthanised after their results came back positive.
However, Gareja contended that his animals were healthy. “They were healthy, but the officers said their blood was infected and therefore they needed to be killed. The one I sold to Palitana was a weak male, and despite feeding it well it did not become sturdy. Therefore, I sold it,” Gareja told The Indian Express.
In Bhavnagar, 10 positive cases have been reported. Authorities have culled seven while two have died due to the disease. Two each have been put to sleep in Jamnagar and Gir Somnath while one had been euthanised in Amreli.
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