Lumpy skin disease (LSD) outbreak has hit thousands of animals in Punjab’s 31 districts, putting a question mark on Livestock Department capacity and preparations.
Officials say the department developed capacity to prepare one million doses per month to curtail the spread of disease, a claim contrary to the ground situation where farmers are compelled to purchase expensive imported serum from private markets. Moreover, government veterinarians are not available for treatment.
The situation has provided private sellers with an opportunity to mint millions of rupees with the connivance of the government officials, it has been learnt.
The Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) in March had ordered four million vaccine doses from Turkey. The Punjab Livestock Department insists it does not need imported vaccine.
Livestock Director General (Research) Dr. Abdur Rehman told Minute Mirror that the department provided 45,000 vaccine doses to Sindh, besides vaccinating military and government farms in Punjab and other provinces. He said Punjab was reporting over 60 to 90 cases per day, and added that poor reporting from farmers’ side was the main reason behind the spread of disease. He claimed the department created an emergency cell and provided toll-free number to farmers in case of any emergency. No case had been reported so far in Hafizabad, Okara, Mandi Bahauddin, Narowal and Chiniot, according to him. Since Punjab has more than 33 million cattle, the department lacks the capacity for mass vaccination, the DG admitted. He said vaccination was done within 2.5-kilometre radius in case of disease in any area.
But the farmers say local veterinarians of the department were not vaccinating the animals.
“Vets pretend shortages and advise us to buy serum from private sellers,” said some dairy owners from Khanewal and Vehari, the districts worst affected by the disease. A Turkish vaccine cost Rs7,500 for 25 cattle, according to farmers.
Hundreds of animals in villages 105/15-L, 106/15-L, 107/15-L and 100/15-L in Mian Channu tehsil were sick for days and many died due to LSD, farmer Muhammad Habib from village 107/15-L told this reporter on the phone. There are reports of LSD breakout in rural areas of Burewala, Mailsi and Vehari.
The LSD has badly hit southern Punjab due to transmission of virus from nearby areas of Sindh, the province where the bug affected more than 40,000 cattle, causing deaths of hundreds since October last year.
LSD is primarily transmitted in cattle and water buffaloes by blood-feeding insects. Its clinical signs include the appearance of circular, firm nodes on the animal’s hide. They immediately start losing weight and have a reduced milk yield. Doctors say the mortality rate in LSD is one to five percent.
Since its first outbreak in 1928 in Africa, no direct transmission of LSD to humans has been reported. Still, it is listed as a notifiable disease due to its social and economic impact on the places it spreads in.