How the Lumpy Skin Disease is wreaking havoc and what is being done to save cows
New Delhi: The Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD) that has wreaked havoc across the country this year has also entered the National Capital. The first case in Delhi was detected at the end of August. The state has logged 358 cases of LSD in the last 10 days though no cattle in the capital has died due to the infection so far. Most cases have been detected in the southwest Delhi districts—Goyla dairy area, Rewla Khanpur area, Ghumanhera and Najafgarh.
The Delhi government has already procured 25,000 doses of goat pox vaccine to inoculate healthy cattle in the capital to prevent the spread of the disease. But 25,000 doses are not enough to inoculate the cattle population in the National Capital, which stands at 80,000. The city government has also set up a special control room with helpline number 8287848586 for queries related to the disease. An isolation ward has been set up in Rewla Khanpur Gau Sadan in southwest Delhi for stray cattle suffering from the disease.
“Agro-climates, communal grazing, biting-fly, and introduction of new animals are associated with the occurrence of lumpy skin disease,” a paper in Science Direct—a database of scientific and medical publications—states.
About 18.5 lakh bovines are affected across the country by LSD. Of these, 12.5 lakh cases are from Rajasthan alone. The disease has spread in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir. The Centre and states are working together to control the spread of the disease, which has emerged as a major concern for the dairy sector.
Of the nearly 75,000 cattle that the disease has killed, more than 50,000 deaths, primarily cows, have been reported from Rajasthan.
Rajasthan is the worst hit, followed by Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. These states have lost many cattle heads and are also suffering economic losses due to loss in production. Milk collection across Rajasthan is estimated to have been reduced by three to four lakh litres per day after the onset of the disease.
The Punjab government has urged the Centre to include LSD in the National Animal Disease Control Programme. The Himachal Pradesh government also urged the Centre to declare the disease an epidemic. Most states have restricted the movement and entry of cattle from neighbouring states and have forbidden the organising of any fairs for the sale or purchase of animals.
What is Lumpy Skin Disease?
LSD is a contagious viral disease that affects cattle. It’s caused by the Neethling virus from the Poxviridae family of viruses. The virus is transmitted by insects that feed on blood, including mosquitoes, flies, and ticks. The severity of the disease varies considerably between breeds and strains of cattle. Many cattle suffer severe emaciation and loss of production for several months.
Control options include vaccinations and culling of infected animals. The mortality rate of LSD is 1-2%. However, the reported mortality of the current outbreak in India is up to 15%, particularly in cases reported in the western part of the country.
The disease, however, is not zoonotic—it is not transmitted from cattle to humans.
Origins of the Disease
The disease is present in many African countries—it was first observed in Zambia in 1929. In 2012, it spread from the Middle East to south-east Europe, affecting EU Member States (Greece and Bulgaria) and several other countries in the Balkans. A vaccination programme has since halted the epidemic in southeast Europe. The disease emerged in Asia in Bangladesh in July 2019. India saw the first case of LSD in 2019, in eastern states especially West Bengal and Odisha.
Symptoms of LSD
The symptoms include the appearance of nodules on the skin, mucous membranes, and internal organs in cattle. Along with nodules, a sharp drop in milk yield is observed, and the animal can contract fever and oedema of the skin, which results in gauntness.
The incubation period or the time between infection and symptoms is about 28 days, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
Is it Safe to Consume Milk?
One of the major concerns that people have regarding LSD is whether it is safe to consume milk at a time when the disease is spreading rapidly. Studies to date have not been able to ascertain the presence of viable and infectious LSD virus in milk derived from the infected animal. Joint Director at the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI) told PTI that it is safe to consume milk from cattle infected by Lumpy Skin Disease, as it is a non-zoonotic disease.
Also, since a large portion of the milk in Asia is processed after collection and is mostly pasteurised, it ensures that the virus is inactivated or destroyed.
It has to be noted that India is the world’s largest milk producer at about 210 million tonnes annually. India also has the largest headcount of cattle and buffalo worldwide.
As per reports, the goat pox vaccine is 100% effective in treating LSD. Over 1.5 crore doses have already been administered in the affected states nationwide. Even the sheep pox vaccine is effective in treating LSD. Moreover, two institutes of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) have developed an indigenous vaccine for LSD, which the Centre plans to commercialise and roll out in the next three to four months.