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Tuesday, December 6, 2022
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Tuesday, December 6, 2022
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    Virus kills 100,000 cattle, threatens livelihoods

    NEW DELHI (AP) – A viral disease has killed nearly 100,000 cows and buffaloes in India and sickened over two million more.

    The outbreak has triggered devastating income losses for cattle farmers since the disease not only results in deaths but can also lead to decreased milk production, emaciated animals, and birth issues.

    The disease, called lumpy skin disease, is spread by insects that drink blood like mosquitoes and ticks. Infected animals get fevers and develop lumps on their skin.

    Farmers have experienced severe losses from extreme weather events over the past year: a record-shattering heat wave in India reduced wheat yields in April, insufficient rainfall in eastern states like Jharkhand state shrivelled parched winter crops such as pulses, and an unusually intense September rainfall has damaged rice in the north.

    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 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 agriculture policy expert in northern Chandigarh city Devinder Sharma.

    A man walks past carcasses of cows that died after being infected with lumpy skin disease at a cow shelter in Jaipur, Rajasthan state, India. PHOTO: AP

    “It’s a serious, serious issue and this (disease)… has been growing since the last couple of years,” he said, adding that the government figures were likely an undercount of the actual death toll from the disease.

    The first cases in South Asia were detected in 2019, and it has since spread to India, China, and Nepal.

    Dairy is among the largest agricultural commodities in India, employing 80 million people and contributing to five per cent 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.

    India’s vast hinterland is now punctuated by mass graves of cows. In some places, the carcasses rot in the open and the pained cries of sick animals are resound in villages.

    Western Rajasthan state has seen the worst impact: 60,000 cattle dead and nearly 1.4 million sickened.

    “The disease is contagious. It’s now shifting from the west to the east,” warned director at Rajasthan state’s Animal Husbandry Department Narendra Mohan Singh.

    In bordering Uttar Pradesh state, India’s most populous, the trade and movement of cattle with neighbouring states has been curbed.

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