The surging numbers of lumpy skin disease infections among cows in the Himalayan region of Jammu and Kashmir, India, have pressed the authorities to start mass vaccination of animals.
While the disease does not affect human beings directly, the livelihoods of cattle farmers like 55-year-old Mymoona Bano, from Mujgund village, are being hit hard.
Recently, on entering her cowshed to feed her animals, Bano was taken back by the scores of lumps spread all over the body of her two Jersey cows. She and her husband, Abdul Rasheed Marazi, immediately took them to the local veterinary facility but, sadly, on the same day both cows succumbed to the disease.
“The department has formed Rapid Response Teams consisting of veterinary medics who go from door-to-door to administer vaccinations and assist with cattle that are diagnosed with the viral disease.”
“Initially I thought it was a simple fever, but very quickly they grew a number of lumps all over the body. I took them to the vet but it was too late. Alas! I am ruined now as I have lost great assets,” exclaims Bano.
“These were not merely animals; they were a part of my family. They used to earn for me, producing 35 litres of milk daily,” Bano says, devastated.
She is not alone. Many households in the area are trying to keep their cattle alive. In the neighbouring village of Rambergarh, 45-year-old farmer Ghulam Rasool Dar’s three cows are suffering from the same symptoms – high fever, lumps, swelling of body parts, lacrimation and salivation.
The first cases in this Himalayan region were reported from Jammu division in August. By the end of September the virus had spread to all the division’s major districts. By the second week of October the number of lumpy skin disease cases had rocketed to around 45,400 in Jammu and Kashmir.
Veterinary experts believe that vectors like flies and mosquitoes move towards residential areas from crop fields during harvest season, thus increasing the chances of animals being infected.
Sensing the gravity of the outbreak, authorities have promptly launched a mass cattle vaccination campaign, according to Atal Dullo, Additional Chief Secretary of the region’s Agricultural Production Department.
Dr Mohammad Hussain Wani, Joint Director Animal Husbandry and Coordinator for Lumpy Skin Disease in Kashmir, explains, “The department has formed Rapid Response Teams consisting of veterinary medics who go from door-to-door to administer vaccinations and assist with cattle that are diagnosed with the viral disease.
“In addition to isolating the cattle, sheds are fogged. Where cows have died, team members help the households in carrying out the burial of carcasses according to health and sanitisation procedures.”
Dr Wani adds that, as of mid-October, the department has vaccinated 175,353 cattle, and 900,000 more vaccine vials will be needed to inoculate all the cattle in the valley. The government expects to vaccinate the entire cattle population by mid-November.