Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD) is a viral disease affecting cattle and Asian water buffaloes. It is transmitted mainly by mechanical arthropod vectors, while the direct contact, contaminated feed, water and equipment are considered to have minor role in the transmission. The disease was first discovered in Africa and is endemic in most of the countries on the continent. LSD occurred in the Middle East in the late 80s and since then it has been reported in Egypt, Israel, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Yemen, the West Bank, Lebanon, Jordan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Cyprus, and Russian Federation. In 2015 the disease made incursion in the European part of Turkey and later on the same year in Greece. In 2016, LSD has spread in the Balkan region, with outbreaks reported in Greece, Bulgaria, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, Kosovo , Albania and Montenegro. In July 2016 LSD was reported in Western Kazakhstan. Thus, LSD is a significant trans-boundary animal disease which spreads rapidly in high cattle density areas and has a potential for serious impact on animal welfare and productivity. Its morbidity rate ranges from five to forty-five percent and the mortality rate is usually under ten percent. Outbreaks of LSD require immediate notification under the Terrestrial Animal Health Code of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).
Economic and livelihood implications
In Africa LSD crippled the production of cattle and compromised vulnerable livelihoods on the continent. The disease not only causes substantial economic losses in terms of dairy, meat and skin production, but also can lead to restrictions or banning of international trade in live animals and animal products. A recent study in Ethiopia found that the financial cost related to infected herds was estimated to be between USD 5-8 per head of local zebu and between USD 42-73 per head of Holstein Friesian crossbred cattle. The incidence of LSD is higher during wet seasons when populations of the biting flies are abundant and it is more prevalent in low-lying areas and along watercourses. LSD shows significant potential for major socio-economic impacts should it continue to spread throughout newly affected countries and into their current LSD free neighbours. This is especially alarming in areas with substantial livestock population. High cattle density areas such as Middle East and Turkey have already been severely affected by LSD. The current northward emergence of the disease, puts even more animals at risk. Apart of the direct production losses, the indirect costs related to the control measures enforced (such as stamping-out, vaccination, trade and movement restriction imposed on the affected/vaccinated areas) have a considerable economic impact on the affected countries.
The strategy for control of LSD incursion includes measures as stamping-out, disposal of the culled animals and the animal products thereof, ban of movement, cleansing and disinfection of facilities and equipment, vector control and vaccination.
In the endemic regions the control measure is confined to vaccination of the susceptible animals.
Homologous and heterologous vaccines are used as preventive and control measure for LSD. As most efficient is considered the live attenuated Lumpy Skin Disease virus vaccine - Neethling strain. However, in some countries heterologous live attenuated vaccines for sheep and goat pox are also used against LSD, when applied in increased dose in cattle.
What FAO is doing
Following the alarming spread of the disease, the FAO`s Emergency Prevention System (EMPRES), published a special bulletin on the emergence of LSD in Europe. In response to the request of countries in Middle East and in the Caucasus region, FAO has coordinated different activities on the regional level aimed at the effective prevention and control of LSD.
In April 2015, FAO in collaboration with the European Commission for the control of Foot-and-Mouth disease (EuFMD) held a first online meeting focused on LSD epidemiology and possible control strategies with particular reference to effective vaccination.
In November 2015, FAO organized a sub-regional workshop in Tbilisi, Georgia in the framework of the GF-TADs Europe on Lumpy Skin Disease prevention and control in cooperation with EC DG SANCO and the OIE.
In view of the LSD spread in the Balkans in 2016 an online meeting "Current Transboundary Animal Disease challenges in the Thrace and Balkan region - expert advice on laboratory diagnosis and biosecurity", with particular focus on LSD was held in May 2016.
The role of the arthropod vectors in the epidemiology of the disease was addressed on a practical workshop Vector surveillance for Transboundary Animal Diseases, carried out in June 2016 in Bulgaria under the Thrace and Balkans Components of the EuFMD working programme.
Under the umbrella of the GF-TADs a joint EC-OIE-FAO initiative called Standing Group of Experts on Lumpy Skin Disease in South East Europe (SGE LSD) was launched in July 2016 with the aim to improve the regional cooperation, dialogue and transparency and to provide a platform for the countries in the region to discuss the common approach for control of the disease based on practical and scientific evidences.
In July 2016, as requested by countries in Central and South Europe, the FAO organized an Ad Hoc Group meeting on Lumpy Skin Disease to review the current control measures in the context of scientific evidence on LSD prevention and control. The meeting participants made several recommendations aiming at better protection of livelihoods and food security while ensuring the effective control of the disease including vaccination, restriction of animal movement, stamping out and repopulation of depopulated farms.
FAO stands ready to provide assistance to member countries to help reduce the risk of disease spread and safeguard vulnerable, livestock-related livelihoods. Assistance should be focused on, but not be limited to disease early warning, laboratory capacity building, risk management, surveillance, and control.