100,000 Cattle Dead, 2M More Sickened: Highly Contagious, Deadly Virus Sweeps Through India Farms


A viral disease has killed nearly 100,000 cows and buffaloes in India and sickened over 2 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, such as mosquitoes and ticks. Infected cows and buffaloes 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 the east shriveled 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.

House Votes to Strike Down Biden's 'EV Mandate' as 5 Democrats Side with Republicans

The contagion spreading among cattle is having a disproportionate impact on small farmers, many of whom rear cattle for milk, said Devinder Sharma, an agriculture policy expert in northern Chandigarh city.

“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. It was first recorded in Zambia in 1929 and has extended through Africa and more recently to parts of Europe.

Dairy is among the largest agricultural commodities in India, employing 80 million people and contributing to 5 percent 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.

Are you concerned about an international food crisis?

To try and protect the industry, authorities are vaccinating healthy cows using a shot designed for a similar disease, while efforts are underway to develop a more effective vaccine.

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 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 Narendra Mohan Singh, a director at Rajasthan state’s Animal Husbandry Department.

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

But farmers such as Amarnath Sharma in Milkipur village say they have been left in the dark. Three of his five cows are sick and, while he has heard about the viral disease, he doesn’t know how to help his livestock.

Former MLB All-Star Deported After Felony Conviction

“If these animals don’t get treatment, they’ll die,” he said.

Farmers in affected states, such as the Himalayan Himachal Pradesh, have urged the government for financial aid.

Meanwhile, a study of the lumpy skin disease virus’ genetic makeup found that it was very different from previous versions, said Vinod Scaria, a scientist at the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology in New Delhi.

Viruses evolve all the time and not all these changes are harmful to health. But Scaria, who is one of the study’s authors, said it exposed the need for continuous monitoring and tracking of diseases since it wasn’t clear how the virus evolved in the past two years.

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.

Truth and Accuracy

Submit a Correction →

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

, , , , , , , ,
The Associated Press is an independent, not-for-profit news cooperative headquartered in New York City. Their teams in over 100 countries tell the world’s stories, from breaking news to investigative reporting. They provide content and services to help engage audiences worldwide, working with companies of all types, from broadcasters to brands. Photo credit: @AP on Twitter
The Associated Press was the first private sector organization in the U.S. to operate on a national scale. Over the past 170 years, they have been first to inform the world of many of history's most important moments, from the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the bombing of Pearl Harbor to the fall of the Shah of Iran and the death of Pope John Paul.

Today, they operate in 263 locations in more than 100 countries relaying breaking news, covering war and conflict and producing enterprise reports that tell the world's stories.
New York City