For the last five years, lumpy skin disease has continued to spread through the Middle East, into Europe, southwest Russia, and also western Asia. Recently, as per the media reports, various districts in the State of Gujarat have been seeing an outbreak of lumpy skin disease (LSD) in cattle this year. The outbreak is estimated to have killed over 40 thousand animals across half the districts in Gujarat.
It is suspected that the virus causing the disease is structurally different from the one found in the year 2019 in Indian cattle. And not only Gujarat, but the center has also reported the numbers increasing rapidly to 57,000 cattle with the spread of the lumpy disease in other states of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, and Andhra Pradesh.
The apprehension among the cattle-rearing communities has constantly been on a rise due to infectious viral disease’s spread and their impact on the dairy business since India is the world’s largest milk producer at about 210 million tonnes annually.
Overview Of Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD)
Lumpy skin disease is an infectious viral disease of cattle, usually emerging as an animal epidemic or epizootic form. The disease is characterized by nodule eruption over the skin, which usually covers the entire body of animals. The severity of the disease depends upon the breeds and strains of cattle.
Many animals suffer extreme weakness and loss of productivity in the production of milk, chronic debility, infertility, and in extreme cases, death. Also, permanent skin lesions cause damaged hides. These implications also affect the economy as it reduces productivity and the commercial value of the cattle.
The symptoms of the lumpy viral disease include:
- Reduced milk production
- Loss of appetite
- Watery eyes
- Enlarged superficial lymph nodes
- Multiple nodules of 2 to 5 centimeters on the skin as well as on the mucous membranes of the respiratory and gastrointestinal tract
Since there isn’t a particular scientifically proposed or proven way of transmission of the virus, other than the suspected vector causing infection, the only way to know when the animal is affected is by regular monitoring of them for any visible symptoms.
There currently doesn’t exist any definitive cure for the disease. Our best bet to control the virus from spreading is through vaccination. In India, the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI) and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research’s (ICAR) National Research Centre on Equines have developed a vaccine based on the virus strains of 2019 outbreaks of lumpy disease, named Lumpi-ProVacInd.
According to ICAR and the Ministry of Agriculture, the trial of the vaccine on cattle affected by the 2022 version of the lumpy virus has shown significant improvement. However, it is still in the trial and development phase. Thus, our current options include the vaccines for goat and sheep pox, which are distantly related to the Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD) virus.
Since the outbreak of the disease has been reported in several Indian states, the remaining states and union territories have started to tighten their biosecurity measures to prevent the infection from spreading from the neighboring geographies.
They have taken up the issue with the animal husbandry department of the respective states and have asked for the implementation of the guidelines on paper, to act in time and keep the animal population safe and healthy.
Some of the guidelines are:
- Controlling the movement of animals. This can drastically prevent the mass downfall of the economic value of the cattle, caused by infection.
- Preventing contact between the caretakers of affected animals with healthy animals, in order to ensure the healthy animals aren’t getting infected.
- Expanding vaccination drives. The cattle are to be given the available goat pox vaccine as a preventive measure against the lumpy virus.
- Immediately isolating the affected animal from the rest of the herd as soon as the symptoms are detected.
- Disinfecting the premise of the animal shelter regularly.
- Handling the carcasses of diseased cattle with care, since they should be buried deep with all the precautionary measures being followed.
- Controlling the disease carrier’s population i.e. keeping in check the population of insect vectors like mosquitoes, fleas, ticks, midges, flies, etc. by regular treatment with insecticides, repellents, and other chemical treatments.
- Waste disposal of animals should be done as per the guidelines and scientific rules, to prevent any fatal mistakes.
Few Final Words
While the disease is deadly among animals, it has also started controversies regarding the consumption of edible products generated by the affected cattle. It is a hot topic in India as to whether the milk produced by a Lumpy Skin Disease affected cow be consumed or will it give rise to some mutated virus strand after contaminating the human body. So, the debate and severe preventive measures to save the animal population are currently going on side by side.