Explainer: Goat plague sends alarm bells ringing in Himachal Pradesh - Hindustan Times
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Explainer: Goat plague sends alarm bells ringing in Himachal Pradesh

Jul 05, 2023 10:50 PM IST

Caused by a morbillivirus, the common symptoms of the disease are diarrhoea and pneumonia affecting the lungs

Himachal Pradesh animal husbandry authorities swung into action after at least 60 sheep and goats of nomadic ‘gaddis’ (shepherds) died and 250 animals fell sick in the highland pastures of Lahaul-Spiti due to Peste Des Petits Ruminants, a highly contagious viral disease. Caused by a morbillivirus, the common symptoms of the disease are diarrhoea and pneumonia affecting the lungs. Teams were rushed to the spot and samples have been sent for testing. Raising awareness among shepherds about the deadly disease and its symptoms can greatly help in reducing the mortality rate, experts tell Hindustan Times

Himachal Pradesh animal husbandry authorities swung into action after at least 60 sheep and goats of nomadic ‘gaddis’ (shepherds) died and 250 animals fell sick in the highland pastures of Lahaul-Spiti due to Peste Des Petits Ruminants, a highly contagious viral disease. (File photo)
Himachal Pradesh animal husbandry authorities swung into action after at least 60 sheep and goats of nomadic ‘gaddis’ (shepherds) died and 250 animals fell sick in the highland pastures of Lahaul-Spiti due to Peste Des Petits Ruminants, a highly contagious viral disease. (File photo)

What is Peste des petits ruminants?

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According to the World Organisation of Animal Health (WOAH) PPR is caused by a virus of the family paramyxoviridae and genus morbillivirus. It represents one of the highly contagious animal diseases in areas that rely on small ruminants as a way of making a living. Outbreaks tend to be associated with contact of immuno-naïve animals with animals from endemic areas, in addition to occurring in extensive migratory populations. Morbidity rate in susceptible populations can reach up to 90-100%. Mortality rates vary among susceptible animals but can reach 50-100% in more severe instances. The disease was first identified in early 1940s in Ivory Coast. It has since been identified in many countries in Africa, Middle East and Asia. The disease has been reported in Europe in 2016 (Georgia) and 2018 (Bulgaria). In India, the disease outbreaks have been reported in Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Telangana, Karnataka and Chhattisgarh. As per the national surveillance epidemiological data on PPR, in India, from 1995-2019 Himachal Pradesh was the top state reporting the highest number of outbreaks per 100 thousand population.

Who are host animals?

Predominantly goats and sheep are prone to the disease. Many species of antelope and wild relatives of domesticated small ruminants are susceptible to PPRV, as per WOAH clinical cases have been reported in gazelles, bushbuck, impala, springbuck, gemsbok, bharal, Sindh ibex, wild goats/bezoar ibex, Nubian ibex, Mongolian saiga antelope, Afghan Markhor goat, Barbary sheep and Laristan sheep. Evidence of infection (antibodies and/or virological evidence of infection) has been demonstrated in additional species, such as goitered gazelle, African grey duiker, Bubal hartebeest, waterbuck, kob and African buffalo. Cattle develop inapparent infections and do not transmit disease. Pigs have been reported as being susceptible and transmitting the virus under laboratory conditions but so far not in the field.

What are the symptoms?

Animal husbandry department deputy director (epidemiology) Dr Naveen Singh said the common symptoms of the disease are blisters in the mouth and respiratory problems. The clinical signs of PPR can vary from per-acute to sub-acute. The typical acute presentation starts with pyrexia (40-41 degree C), lacrimation, serous nasal discharge, depression and anorexia. Diarrhoea starts after two to three days, causing severe dehydration. Erosions appear on the nasal and oral mucus membranes, with salivation and scabs on the lips. The lacrimation and nasal discharge become profuse and catarrhal, crusting on the eyelids and around the nostrils, sticking the eyelids together and obstructing breathing. There is dyspnoea and coughing due to bronchopneumonia. Pregnant females can abort, and milk yield is reduced. Death occurs from 10 to 20 days after onset and recovery can take several.

How the transmission occurs?

Transmission may take place mainly by aerosols or direct contact between animals living in close quarters. Fomites may be means of spreading infection; feed, pasture and water troughs. Outbreaks are frequent during the rainy season or the dry cold season probably associated with seasonal periods of increased local movement. Tears, nasal discharge, coughed secretions, and all secretions and excretions of incubating and sick animals are common source of virus, even milk.

What is the situation in Lahaul after outbreak?

The outbreak was reported in highland pasture near Tindi in Himachal Pradesh at the end of June. At least 40 sheep and goats perished to the disease while 250 were affected. The disease was reported in three flocks, said Dr Singh. “They are being administered symptomatic treatment. No more fatalities have been reported so far. The samples have been sent to Regional Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, Jalandhar, and other labs in Mandi and Shimla,” said Naveen Singh. He said it is difficult to detect the source due to flocks being migratory. The disease may occur if a new flock has missed the annual vaccination. Meanwhile, secretary (animal husbandry) Rakesh Kanwar said a six-member team comprising two doctors, two veterinary pharmacists and two lower rung employees has been deployed at Tindi for treatment and monitor the situation.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Naresh K Thakur is a staff reporter in Hindustan Times’ Himachal bureau. Based at Dharamshala, he covers Tibetan affairs, local politics and environmental issues.

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