A viral disease has killed nearly 100,000 cows and buffaloes in India and sickened over 2 million more, Anirudha Ghosal reported for the Associated Press (AP).
Photo Insert: Lumpy skin disease has spread to at least 15 states with the number of cow and buffalo deaths nearly doubling in three weeks.
The disease, called lumpy skin disease, is spread by insects that drink blood like mosquitoes and ticks. Infected cows and buffaloes get fevers and develop lumps on their skin.
And now, the virus has spread to at least 15 states with the number of cow and buffalo deaths nearly doubling in three weeks, the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency reported.
The contagion spreading among cattle is having a disproportionate impact on small farmers, many of whom have insulated themselves from the shocks of climate change by rearing cattle for milk, said Devinder Sharma, an agriculture policy expert in northern Chandigarh city.
The first cases in South Asia were detected in 2019, and it has since spread to India, China, and Nepal. It was first recorded in Zambia in 1929 and has extended through Africa and more recently to parts of Europe.
Dairy is among the largest agricultural commodities in India, employing 80 million people and contributing to 5% of its economy, per federal data. It’s the world’s largest milk producer, making up more than a fifth of global production — but exports are only a fraction of this.
To try and protect the industry, authorities are vaccinating healthy cows using a shot designed for a similar disease while efforts are underway to develop a more effective vaccine. Western Rajasthan state has seen the worst impact: 60,000 cattle dead and nearly 1.4 million sickened.
Meanwhile, a study of the lumpy skin disease virus’ genetic makeup found that it was very different from previous versions, said Vinod Scaria, a scientist at the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology in New Delhi. Viruses evolve all the time and not all these changes are harmful to health.
But Scaria, who is one of the study’s authors, said it exposed the need for continuous monitoring and tracking of diseases since it wasn’t clear how the virus evolved in the past two years. “If you had continuous surveillance, you would be prepared,” he said, Chonchui Ngashangva and Biswajeet Banerjee also reported for AP.