Veterinary schools are being urged to teach students how to spot the clinical signs of a vector-borne disease that could prove more devastating and costly than the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in 2001.

Lumpy skin disease.
Lumpy skin disease. Image taken from the article “New and emerging diseases in ruminant and pig species” by Alan Murphy (VT46.36).

Lumpy skin disease (LSD) is a notifiable disease of cattle caused by a capripoxvirus. No cases have been confirmed in the UK, but the virus, vectored by biting insects, is moving towards the UK from sub-Saharan Africa and is reported in Greece, the Balkans, Russia, Turkey and the Middle East.

Daniel Steerforth, a resident training scholar at the RVC, has researched LSD in Bulgaria and is concerned UK vets are not equipped to swiftly identify and notify the presence of LSD to prevent its spread.

Practitioners ‘unaware’

Dr Steerforth, who presented to BCVA Congress, said: “The way things have been going over the past decade, many diseases that were thought of as exotic are no longer and, at the same time, are not covered in the curriculum of any of the vet schools in the UK. This was previously the case with the bluetongue virus.

“LSD is emerging and, unfortunately, none of the UK cattle practitioners are even aware of what it looks like, what the clinical signs are and how they can distinguish it from other similar skin diseases. LSD is a notifiable disease and vets are obligated to immediately report it, but how are you going to report it if you don’t know what it is?”

“Cattle practitioners should at least have a basic understanding of the clinical symptoms of the disease and the ability to distinguish it from other common things, like mud rash, photosensitisation or weals.”

‘Devastating’

Dr Steerforth said, in the event of an LSD breakdown in the UK, his best guess was entire herds would be slaughtered to prevent further transmission.

He said: “The economic consequences could be devastating for the country if this disease was to establish here. Economic studies on LSD from Turkey and Israel make it clear this could cost even more money than the 2001 foot-and-mouth disease outbreak.”

  • Read the full story in the 5 December issue of Veterinary Times.
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