At least 20 cattle died in the last two months in Saidpur upazila and hundreds others infected by a highly contagious viral disease known as lumpy skin disease (LSD).
Owners of around 1 lakh domestic cattle and 300 commercial cattle farms in the upazila are now gripped by fear at the news that the LSD virus is spreading rapidly in the region, especially in Kamarpukur, Kashiram Belpukur, Khata Modhupur, Botlagari and Bangalipur unions in Saidpur.
Rashedul Haque, upazila livestock officer in Saidpur, said they treated a minimum of 250 cattle for LSD in recent months.
Differing with the number of deaths claimed by locals, he said nine cattle, of which are mostly calves, died of "secondary infection" of LSD.
He however played down the severity of the disease and blamed the deaths on weak immunity in the dead animals and wrong treatment of them by quacks.
The official claimed that after "prompt actions" taken by the livestock office, "the disease is on the decline". He also said, "Considering its severity, we've been treating infected cattle even during the [Covid-19] lockdown period in most unions of the upazila."
Many owners of infected cattle said within two to three days after numerous rounded lumps become evident under the skin of an animal, the lumps turn into open sores that show signs of discharge. It also develops high fever, general malaise and strong aversion to food before dying within a few days.
To make matters worse, many unscrupulous cattle owners are endangering public health by secretly selling their infected animals to local meat sellers for a low price.
Cattle farmer Liakat Ali, from Bus Terminal area in Saidpur town, said he has been worried about all the cattle in his farm as one of the cattle recently died of LSD, which is a contagious disease.
Golam Mostofa, another cattle farmer in Dolua Chowdhurypara village of Kamarpukur union, shared a similar experience with this correspondent.
Contacted, Monakka Ali, district livestock officer in Nilphamari, said lumpy skin disease is a viral disease and "there is no specific vaccine available" for LSD yet.
Currently they are providing symptomatic treatments to the infected cattle, he said, adding that they also advise farmers to clean their cowsheds with bleaching power or sodium bicarbonate in order to contain the spread of the disease.
According to the official website of National Animal Disease Information Service (NADIS) in the UK, LSD is caused by infection of cattle or water buffalo with the poxvirus Lumpy skin disease virus (LSDV). The virus is one of three closely related species within the genus capripoxvirus.
Transmission of LSD occurs via insect vectors and vaccination is the most effective means of control. During the past five years, lumpy skin disease has spread through the Middle East into southeast Europe, the Caucasus, southwest Russia and western Asia. The disease causes substantial losses in affected herds with significant economic consequences. It also blocks access of affected countries to lucrative export markets, compounding the financial impact of an LSD outbreak, the NADIS also said in their website.