Almost 200 gazelle have died or been destroyed this year in two outbreaks of foot and mouth disease, officials have said. Seventy animals died of the disease in the outbreaks in the Al Awir and Deira areas of Dubai, while another 125 were destroyed as a precaution against the disease spreading, according to a report submitted last week to the World Organisation for Animal Health by the Ministry of Environment and Water.
The first and largest outbreak was detected on a farm for breeding oryx and gazelle near Al Maktoum bridge in Deira on Dec 29, according to the report. A total of 80 cases were detected at the farm, of which 70 animals died. Another 120 were destroyed. A second outbreak was found on a similar farm in Al Awir at the end of January. Five cases were detected and all those animals were destroyed. Both outbreaks were at farms "located in an isolated area just for wildlife [gazelles and oryx]", the report said.
No oryx were infected, according to Dr Mohammed Rahman, a quarantine officer at the Ministry of Environment and Water. The oryx is classified as an endangered species. Foot and mouth is one of the most contagious animal diseases and can cause massive economic losses if it infects domestic animals. "These were isolated cases and the disease has not spread," said Dr Rahman. "It was localised in this area.
"We have taken samples from all farms in the area and we haven't seen any more cases." Foot and mouth causes a fever and blister-like sores on the tongue and lips, in the mouth, on the teats and between the hoofs. The disease can affect cattle, sheep, swine and all wild ruminants. Camels have a low susceptibility to the disease. It is caused by an airborne virus, particularly so in temperate climates, where it can travel up to 60km on the wind.
It can also be spread by people and materials that come into contact with infected animals, though it does not affect humans. The disease is considered "endemic" in the Middle East and domestic animals in the UAE are regularly inoculated against the disease. There were no other farms or animals in the immediate area surrounding the two outbreaks, said Dr Rahman. The Ministry of Environment said that no cases had been reported since the end of February, and an official survey found no further diseased animals in the Emirates, allowing both of the outbreaks to be classified as "resolved" on February 26.