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Beware of this killer disease that spares vaccinated cattle

Dear Daktari

Thank you for the informative articles you pen on animals. I am a dairy farmer in Homa Bay County and is part of a dairy cooperative that is encouraging farmers to embrace dairy crosses in an effort to increase milk yields. However, my concern is that upcoming farmers are not investing in vaccination against common diseases like foot and mouth, lumpy skin disease and black quarter, among others. For instance, we have been experiencing repeated outbreaks of lumpy skin disease in neighbouring villages despite vaccinating our stock and it is worrying. The veterinary doctors here blame it on new stock and some farmers not vaccinating. Kindly educate us on lumpy skin disease and how to keep our animals safe.

[John Awiti, Homa Bay County]

Thank you Mr Awiti for reaching out to us. Lumpy skin disease is a devastating viral  disease, which can be prevented through vaccination. Unfortunately, despite the availability of a cheap vaccine, most farmers do not vaccinate and when the disease strikes it results in huge losses.

Vaccination is the remedy

Vaccination or use of vaccines is a very cost effective animal diseases preventive measure. While not all diseases have vaccines that can be used in their prevention, there are vaccines for most diseases of economic importance. Lumpy skin disease is among diseases that canbe preventedby vaccine.

The disease is caused by viruses and there is no effective cure once the disease attacks. It is spread by biting insects and through contact. It affects all ages of cattle and has a relatively high mortality and causes total damage of skin and hides.



The signs and symptoms

The clinical signs of lumpy skin disease include wounds in the mouth and respiratory tract, causing discharge of mucus from mouth and nose and drooling of saliva. Other symptoms are fever, tears, loss of appetite and refusing to walk.

The main clinical sign is, however, the eruption of lumpy swellings on the skin which are very visible. The swellings can cover the whole body or may be limited to the head, neck, udder and teats, around the anus or external genitalia. Severely affected animals become thin as the lesions interfere with feeding and subsequently milk production drops drastically. Affected bulls will not be able to serve, while pregnant animals abort and pneumonia may follow. Death often follows after that painful episode.

Treatment and Control

Sick animals should immediately be isolated from the rest of the herd to prevent spread of the disease.



There is no effective antiviral treatment for this disease but supportive treatment can be given for the wounds to discourage flies from landing and to reduce further spread of the disease. Antibiotics are normally given for any secondary infections. Insect control on the farm also helps.

To control the disease, carry out a 25 to 50km radius of vaccination from the focus of the disease and restrict the movement of animals into and out of the affected areas.

In Awiti’s case, animals should not be moved into or out of the affected villages. Thereafter, a follow-up vaccination of calves and repeated vaccination over two to three years will reduce outbreak of diseases.

This vaccine is produced locally by the Kenya Veterinary Vaccines Production Institute and marketed as Lumpivax. To keep the disease at bay, annual vaccination is recommended.

According to the Animal Diseases Act Cap 364 of Kenyan law, lumpy skin disease is listed among notifiable diseases, which means that its occurrence should be reported to the nearest veterinary authority so that cattle movement restrictions can be imposed to limit further spread of the disease.

[The writer is a Veterinary Officer at the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives, jothieno43@yahoo.com]

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