Mystery Disease Continues to Claim Cattle in Rakhine

By Min Aung Khine 3 October 2018

SITTWE, Rakhine State — More buffalo have died in recent days of unknown causes in the Oh Pyin Htaung village tract of Minbya Township, Rakhine State, bringing the death toll to over 60 since late last month.

Local villagers have reported nine more deaths after more than 50 buffalo died of unknown causes in the second week of September while out to pasture in the Arakan Mountains.

Nearly 40 buffalo went missing at the same time, and it is not yet clear whether they were stolen or also died.

Locals still have no idea what is causing the deaths or whether it is something that can spread to other animals or humans.

“One more buffalo of mine died today. So far three have died. I have no idea what disease caused their deaths. Once they got sick their bellies became bloated. Some died within hours and some died the following day,” Ko Tun Tun Win, an Oh Pyin Htaung resident, told The Irrawaddy by phone.

Locals also reported similar symptoms among buffalo on some of the farms in the village tract.

“It is a serious cause for concern that buffalo are dying in large numbers. Farmers in my village are planning to sell their buffalo for fear that they might also be infected,” Maung Ni Che, another Oh Pyin Htaung resident, told The Irrawaddy.

Locals say symptoms also include breathing difficulty, lumps in the throat and constipation, and that buffalo have continued to die even after being given the vaccine recommended by the Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Department.

The department visited the affected areas on Sept. 23 and confirmed 46 deaths at the time. Samples from the dead animals and surrounding land and water sources were sent to Yangon for testing, said U Chit Oo Lwin, who heads the township’s Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Department.

“The lab test results are not out yet, but we suspect that they died of a throat disease,” he told The Irrawaddy, adding that the symptoms were similar to those of hemorrhagic septicemia, an acute infection that can cause pneumonia.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.