There is a quote from American Biologist and Ethologist Mark Bekoff that states, “Animals are not property or things but rather living organisms, subjects of life, who are worthy of our compassion, respect, friendship, and support.” I begin this article with this quote to highlight the care that animals require in our society for their proper living and to prevent them from diseases.
It is indeed a dilemma in our society and culture that veterinary doctors do not receive the same respect as medical doctors, despite performing duties in far-flung areas and reaching ailing animals. In the field of human health, three tiers of healthcare facilities have been created, namely primary, secondary, and tertiary, but unfortunately, no such policy intervention has been introduced in the livestock sector. This sector, considered a driving force for economic growth in the country, is reflected in the statistical data from the Economic Surveys of Pakistan. It had a share of 61.89 percent in agriculture and 14.04 percent in GDP, with a recorded growth of 3.26 percent in 2021-22 compared to 2.38 percent during the same period last year.
It is a fact that, like humans, animals are prone to many bacterial and viral diseases, which may lead to mortality if not treated properly. However, it is necessary to discuss some major contagious diseases in animals, as they have a direct impact on humans, being zoonotic in nature. These diseases may also affect the economy by imposing bans on the import of meat and allied products. Major contagious diseases in animals requiring special attention include Hemorrhagic Septicaemia, Foot and Mouth Disease (Zoonotic), Lumpy Skin Disease, Congo (Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever), and Peste Des Petits Ruminants (PPR).
Hemorrhagic Septicaemia is a disease occurring in cattle and buffaloes caused by Pasteurella Multocida, a small gram-negative bacteria. It has caused heavy losses, particularly in South East Asia, the Middle East, and low-lying areas of Pakistan. It is characterized by a sudden rise in temperature (106-107 F), profuse salivation, severe submucosal petechiation, severe depression, and death may occur in about 24 hours. It starts after the rainy season, and proper vaccination with H.S vaccine can cure this disease. Another important disease is Foot and Mouth, which is zoonotic in nature and commonly known as FMD. It is considered a severe and highly contagious disease of livestock affecting cattle, swine, sheep, goats, and other cloven-hoofed ruminants. Caused by an Aphthovirus of the family Picornaviridae, it is characterized by fever and blister-like sores on the tongue and lips, in the mouth, on the teats, and pressure points on the skin. The virus has zoonotic potential and can cause a disease in humans resembling mild influenza. Vaccination is an effective control strategy for FMD. Another disease that has recently caused havoc throughout the country is Lumpy Skin Disease. It is a viral disease caused by Capripoxivirus and transmitted in cattle and water buffalo by blood-feeding insects. It is characterized by fever, lacrimation, nasal discharge, hypersalivation, followed by eruptions on the skin and other parts of the body. The prominent features include the formulation of nodules on the skin of infected cattle, which is painful. It can be treated through vaccination.
In recent times, a disease that has generated a threat in the country is known as Congo (Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever), which has created health and life-threatening issues for medical doctors. It is usually transmitted by ticks and a tick-borne virus, namely “Nairovirus,” belonging to the family Bunyaviridae. The incubation period ranges from 2-14 days. The most common symptoms include fever, chills, shudders, myalgia, headaches, sickness, vomits, abdominal pain, arthralgia, and, after a few days, bleeding from mucous membranes, hematomas, ecchymosis, melena, hematuria, nose bleeding, vaginal bleeding, bradycardia, thrombocytopenia, and leukopenia. Monitoring fluid, electrolyte balance, renal function, blood pressure, and oxygenation, and careful rehydration with the support of the coagulation system, along with blood component therapy, is required for patients diagnosed with this disease. Supportive drug therapy, including painkillers, antiemetics for vomiting, anxiolytics for agitation, and antibiotics, along with the antiviral drug ribavirin, can be given early in the course of the disease.
Peste Des Petits Ruminants (PPR) is a viral disease caused by a morbillivirus closely related to the rinderpest virus, affecting goats, sheep, some wild relatives of domesticated small ruminants, and camels. It is characterized by high fever, depression, along with eye and nose discharge. Animals suffering from this disease cannot eat, as the mouth becomes covered in painful erosive lesions, and the animals suffer from severe pneumonia and diarrhea, with death frequently being the outcome. There is no specific treatment for PPR; however, treatment for bacterial and parasitic complications decreases mortality rates in affected flocks or herds. The live attenuated PPR vaccine provides protection for one year.
The reason for briefly describing the above diseases is to understand their occurrence, symptoms, treatment, and prevention for future occurrences. All the above-described diseases have a direct connection with the economy of the country, as they deeply affect the production of livestock and disrupt regional and international trade in animals and animal products. The Livestock and Fisheries Department, Government of Sindh, with limited budgetary resources, is striving hard to prevent the occurrence of these diseases through mass vaccination drives throughout the year, along with extension services to livestock farmers. The recent timely control of Lumpy Skin Disease is a testimony to the same. Foot and Mouth Disease-free zones have been declared on a compartmental basis so that the import of meat and allied products can be made from these areas. Despite all these efforts, more steps need to be taken to pave the way for the betterment of livestock farmers. The first and foremost step in this regard is awareness among livestock farmers, as it is rightly said that prevention is better than cure. Extension services, based on organizing seminars, visits to livestock farmers, and airing basic knowledge of diseases on electronic media in regional languages by Federal and Provincial Governments, will help livestock owners understand the basic concepts properly. Livestock management has been neglected, which is the prime requirement for the proper rearing of livestock. More focus should also be given to livestock management, which will help in controlling contagious diseases.
Another important aspect that requires special attention is the diagnosis of diseases. In the livestock sector, diagnosis is mostly done based on symptoms, which can be helpful for initial treatment. Still, for proper treatment and understanding the phenomenon of the disease, it is necessary to provide awareness to livestock farmers for a proper diagnosis of every disease. The Central Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, Tandojam, with its sub-centers in different districts, providing diagnostic facilities to livestock farmers, needs enhancement with the establishment of highly equipped laboratories at Divisional Headquarters. The private sector should also be encouraged for investment in this area to establish diagnostic laboratories, similar to those in the human field. The Livestock and Fisheries Department, Government of Sindh, has established the Sindh Institute of Animal Health in Karachi and a Vaccine Production Unit at Tandojam, both mandated with the preparation of vaccines to cater to the department’s requirements. The manufacturing of FMD vaccine in the province is in the pipeline and likely to materialize in the coming years.
It is a fact that until and unless there is no control on FMD, PPR, LSD, and Congo diseases, the country would not be able to access international markets for the trade of meat, milk, and allied products. Both Federal and Provincial Governments are trying hard to curtail the occurrence of these diseases, as through the export of meat and allied products, revenue in billions of rupees can be generated. To achieve this, a collective effort is required from Federal, Provincial Governments, and livestock farmers.
The writer is a Director General Livestock (E&R) Sindh.