Though LSD is primarily a disease of cattle, emerging evidence suggests that it can also cause mild illness in buffalo, camel, deer and horse. Due to its recent spread in unnatural hosts, there are also growing concerns about its zoonotic implication, although confirmatory evidence of human infection is lacking.
Casualty figures from different states, compiled by agriculture ministry, show that Rajasthan has reported the highest 2,411 deaths of cattle, followed by Gujarat at 1,879, Punjab at 672, Himachal Pradesh at 38, Andaman & Nicobar at 29 and Uttarakhand at 26.
Instances of infection among thousands of cattle have also been reported from other states including Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. The current outbreak is quite extensive and lethal with a mortality of up to 15%, particularly those being reported in western parts of the country including Gujarat and Rajasthan.
States are currently fighting the menace through goat-pox vaccine which has been authorised for emergency use in absence of specific vaccine for LSD. The Centre hopes the commercialisation of recently released indigenous vaccines – Lumpi-ProVaxInd – may be able to control the spread.
“The commercialisation process has already begun. We hope the ministry will issue ‘expression of interest’ in a day or two so that private vaccine manufacturers will step in to come out with adequate number of doses to meet needs of farmers,” said Yashpal, director, ICAR-National Research Centre on Equines (NRCE), Hissar.
Vaccine is developed by NRCE in collaboration with the ICAR-lndian Veterinary Research institute (lVRl), lzatnagar (UP). The NRCE is currently supplying limited doses of the newly developed LSD vaccines free of cost to ‘gaushalas’ and those dairy farmers who have a large number of cattle in affected states.
“We (both NRCE and IVRI together) don’t have capacity to cover the entire affected population of cattle. Its commercialisation will, however, quickly increase the vaccination footprints,” said Yashpal. One dose of vaccine, costing Rs 1-2 per dose, will provide immunity to cattle for a minimum period of one year.
LSD was reported first time in India from Odisha in 2019. The current outbreak has, however, been reported in April-May in Gujarat and Rajasthan before being spread to other states.
The disease in cattle is characterized by development of skin nodules which is associated with fever, enlargement of lymph nodes and depression, eventually resulting in reduced milk yield, abortion in pregnant animals and sterility in bulls.