In a span of a few weeks, the Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD) has spread across Sindh with over 20,000 animals affected — 15,100 in Karachi alone — and as many as 54 dead. Officials are now saying that it has also started spreading to Punjab. Officials have identified this to be a real threat and have held an important meeting along with setting up a task force to curb the spread of the disease.
Some options that have been discussed are to develop a strategic and operational plan on an emergency basis to limit economic cost to farmers; to procure around 500,000 vaccines for proper immunisation of cattle since there is no cure for it; and to use insect/mosquito repellants in cattle farms. For those who are unaware, LSD is a viral disease caused by a capripox virus and spread by biting insects. Symptoms include high fever, swollen lymph glands and large nodules or lumps on the skin. This epidemic can have a disastrous effect for two main reasons. One, Pakistan is highly dependent on agriculture and livestock for production and consumption purposes. The deadly epidemic will decrease milk and meat production in turn creating shortages which will affect the leather industry and tanneries due to damaged hides. It could also affect the livelihood of farmers and have a devastating impact on their future due to abortions and infertility in these animals. All this will be accompanied by economic losses to the livestock, agriculture and meat processing sectors. Two, while the disease may not affect humans, panic and hesitancy among the masses would lead to farmers selling affected cows to butchers at cheap rates.
The government must act fast and isolate affected animals before taking steps to reduce the spread of the disease. Apart from that, officials must also carefully monitor mandis, meat processing companies and butchers in order to make sure that affected animals are not being sold to the masses.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 11th, 2022.
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