While humans are trying to fight the deadly novel coronavirus across the globe, cattle in the country's northern districts, under Rangpur division, are getting infected at an alarming pace by another highly contagious virus -- lumpy skin disease (LSD).
According to independent sources and affected cattle owners, at least 50 cattle, mostly calves, have died and nearly 20,000 infected with LSD in seven out of eight districts in the division over the last several months.
However, livestock officials in the districts provided different figures of infections and deaths of cattle in their respective districts.
According to their official tally, Thakurgaon so far saw the highest number of deaths, 15, and 2,000 infections; Kurigram 7 deaths and 3,000 infections; Dinajpur 5 deaths and 3,000 infections; Nilphamari 4 deaths and 2,000 infections; and Lalmonirhat 2 deaths and 2,000 infections.
The livestock officials in Rangpur and Gaibandha said their districts had 3,100 and 420 infections respectively with no incidents of death.
Panchagarh official said there was neither any infection nor any death relating to LSD in the district.
In a news report published in the paper on June 10, headlined 'Lumpy skin disease virus killing cattle in Saidpur: Farmers say they lost as many as 20 cattle to LSD in a couple of months', Saidpur Upazila Livestock Officer Rashedul Haque said nine cattle, of which are mostly calves, died of "secondary infection" of LSD in his upazila alone.
While speaking with this correspondent, Altaf Hossain, livestock officer in Rangpur, said deaths of animals would be lower and the spread of LSD virus could be curbed if all the livestock offices in the upazilas of the division had sufficient manpower to provide treatment to all infected animals in a timely manner.
Besides, cattle owners allowing local quacks to treat the infected animals are also contributing to the rise in the number of deaths, he added.
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.
Shreyoshee Karmaker, an intern of veterinary medicine at Hajee Mohammad Danesh Science and Technology University in Dinajpur, said there is no specific treatment available for the treatment of LSD at the moment and they are prescribing symptomatic medications such as parcetamol for fever and pain.
Officials at Department of Livestock Services (DLS) in Rangpur division said LSD is not native to Bangladesh and the country's first LSD infection was reported last year in Chattogram.
They said since there is no treatment available for LSD, they have been taking preventive measures by vaccinating cattle in the region.
Dr Habibul Haq, deputy director of DLS in Rangpur, said the LSD outbreak had been kept to a minimum as they have brought six lakh cattle under coverage of goatpox vaccination in eight districts of Rangpur this year already.
According to the official website of National Animal Disease Information Service (NADIS) in the UK, LSD was first described in Zambia in 1929. Over the next 85 years, it steadily spread throughout the majority of Africa and into the Middle East. In 2015, the virus entered mainland Europe in Greece, the Caucasus and Russia. In 2016, the virus spread further east into the Balkans, north towards Moscow, and west into Kazakhstan.
Transmission of LSD occurs via insect vectors and vaccination is the most effective means of control. 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.