The dairy sector of India contributes to 23 per cent of the world’s milk production, ranking first across the globe. But the rising cases of the Lumpy Skin Disease — a viral infection commonly occurring among the cattle of African countries — have thrown the nation out of gear.
The infectious disease has spread to over ten states and killed nearly 75,000 cattle so far. And with Navratri and Diwali festivals ahead, the price of sweets may also spike due to the losses suffered by the milk industry.
With panic setting in, here is all the information we have about the disease and its viral outbreak.
What is the lumpy skin disease?
The United States Department of Agriculture defines Lumpy skin disease (LSD) as a fatal viral disease that spreads when cattle animals come in direct contact with vectors like mosquitoes, flies and ticks or through contaminated fodder and water.
It is not a zoonotic virus, meaning it cannot be transmitted to humans.
What are the symptoms of the lumpy skin disease?
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).
Which Indian states have been affected by the lumpy skin disease?
India first reported the disease in Gujarat’s Kutch back in April. Since then, it has spread to seven states and UTs, including Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Jammu-Kashmir.
Rajasthan remains the worst affected, with nearly 50,000 deaths to date. The reduction in mild production has cost the desert state a loss of three to six lakh litres a day.
Given the severity of the disease, the Mumbai Police has prohibited cattle import in the Maharashtrian capital city, and the order will remain in force till October 13, an official said on Sunday.
Is there a vaccine developed for the lumpy skin disease?
While India does not have a vaccine against the lumpy skin disease, the goat pox vaccine has proved highly effective against this infection in the past. So far, 1.2 crore doses have been administered across the country.
“Rapid vaccination is being done, and steps have been taken to supply medicines to the districts at the earliest. Almost 1.4 million animals have been vaccinated in Rajasthan,” Animal Husbandry Minister Lalchand Kataria told Business Standard in an interview on September 20.
Furthermore, awareness is also being raised among all stakeholders involved, while surveillance and vaccination zones have been created as well.
Is it safe to consume the milk of affected cattle?
Not much research has been done to ascertain the presence of viable and infectious LSDV virus in milk derived from the infected animal. However, according to FAO, since a large portion of the milk in Asia is processed after collection — either pasteurised, boiled or powdered — the virus is likely to remain inactivated or get destroyed.
Mr D N Mohanty, 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.
“It is safe to consume milk from infected cattle. There is no problem in the quality of milk even if you have it after boiling or without boiling,” he stated.
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