According to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, the disease is caused by a virus called Lumpy Skin Disease Virus (LSDV) of Capripoxvirus genus and can be transmitted through mosquitoes and other insects which feed on blood like ticks and houseflies.
Thousands of cattle across Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab and Gujarat have been afflicted and dying of a deadly virus called the lumpy skin disease.
Anand, Gujarat’s famous dairy hub, which is home to the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federal and headquarters of Amul, along with neighbouring villages has reported 1,507 cases of the disease since April 1.
With Punjab and Haryana grappling with the virus, Jalandhar in Punjab is the worst hit, having reported 5,967 cases till August 14.
As of August 14, Rajasthan, which shares borders with Gujarat, Punjab and Haryana, has logged 16,387 cattle deaths due to the disease even though the state government claims to have controlled the spread of the virus.
The outbreaks that have been reported recently (June-July-August 2022) are extensive and lethal with a mortality of up to 15 per cent, particularly those being reported in the Western part (Rajasthan) of the country.
While the Centre has already announced a vaccine and is likely to launch a mass vaccination drive to inoculate cattle soon, vulnerable states are ramping up measures curb the spread of the virus and bring down mortalities.
Here is a brief look at the disease, how it spreads and what are the preventive and curative measures:
What is lumpy skin disease?
It is a viral disease that affects cattle, especially cows and buffaloes. As per the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI), the disease is caused by a virus called Lumpy Skin Disease Virus (LSDV) of Capripoxvirus genus and can be transmitted through mosquitoes and other insects which feed on blood like ticks and houseflies.
Emerging evidence suggests that the LSD virus can also cause mild illness in buffalo, camels, deer and horses.
The virus has been endemic to Africa for over a century, but since 2012 has spread through southwest Europe, the Middle-East and west and central Asia.
In Asia, the disease was first reported in China in 2019 and later in Bangladesh and India. In India, the disease was first reported in Odisha in 2019.
What are the symptoms?
Cattle infected with lumpy skin disease develop fever, enlarged superficial lymph nodes and multiple nodules on the skin. Infected animals immediately start losing weight and may have fever and lesions in the mouth, along with a reduced milk yield.
Other symptoms include excessive nasal and salivary secretion. Pregnant cows and buffaloes often suffer miscarriage and in some cases, diseased animals can die due to it as well.
While the disease afflicts both exotic and indigenous breeds of cattle, the former is more vulnerable due to their low immunity levels.
Prevention and treatment measures
The disease is curable and an infected animal has fair chances of recovery if provided treatment in the early stages.
According to the World Organisation of Animal Health (WOAH), the disease has a fatality rate of one to five per cent.
WOAH says early detection as well as “rapid and widespread vaccination campaign” is a must to curb the disease.
That apart, experts recommend cleaning and sanitising cattle sheds and use insecticides to get rid of any vector that can spread the disease.
They also advise cattle owners to isolate infected bovines from the herd to avoid the spread of the disease.
Ravi Murarka, a leading Indian-American veterinary doctor and president of the American Association of Veterinarians of Indian-Origin told PTI that mass vaccination of cattle and immediate restriction on their inter-district movement are a must to prevent the spread of lumpy skin disease.
With the monsoon season being conducive for the virus to spread, Murarka says it is important to control mosquitoes or keep the vector away from susceptible animals. He advises that animals at risk should keep indoors at night to be away from mosquitoes and cattle owners should avoid any transportation of animals at night.
Brushing animals at risk with lime, quicklime or slaked lime that forms a layer on skin and decreases the ability of mosquitoes to reach the skin is also advisable.
How India is dealing with the crisis?
Last week, the Centre launched the indigenous vaccine LumpiProVacInd to bring down the rate of infection through vaccination.
The vaccine has been developed by the National Equine Research Centre (NERC) in Haryana’s Hisar in collaboration with the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI) in Uttar Pradesh. While launching the vaccine, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said the government aims to vaccinate 30 crore animals.
Sheepox virus (SPV) and goat pox virus (GPV)-based vaccine (heterologous vaccine) is usually authorised to induce cross-protection against LSD in cattle, where homologous LSD vaccine is not available.
The Centre has also authorised the use of goatpox vaccine to control LSD in cattle. However, heterologous vaccines provide partial protection and are not as efficacious as homologous vaccines, the ICAR said.
Punjab has already inoculated more than 1.16 lakh cattle with the goat pox vaccine, procured from the Veterinary Biological and Research Institute, Hyderabad, and plans to procure 3.3 lakh more doses.