What is lumpy skin disease?
Lumpy skin disease (LSD) is a serious and highly contagious emergency animal disease that affects cattle and buffalo. It has never been detected in Australia before, but its rapid spread overseas makes it a serious threat to Australia’s cattle and buffalo industries.
LSD is a poxvirus (a virus from the Poxviridae family) which can be spread by biting insects such as mosquitoes, flies and potentially ticks, through contaminated equipment and products, or directly from infected animal to animal. The virus causes painful skin lesions which can erupt and become infected. Other symptoms include fever, reluctance to move, watery eyes, and loss of appetite.
There is no threat to human health from LSD.
An outbreak of LSD in Australia would result in serious animal health and welfare issues, as well as severely impact trade for our cattle and dairy industries. LSD could have a devastating impact on the export of related products – including dairy, hides, genetic materials, and some meat products.
It is important to realise that even a detection at the northern most part of mainland Australia could impact Tasmania’s market access and ability to export.
We all need to be vigilant for LSD, report any potential cases to a veterinarian or the Emergency Animal Disease Hotline (1800 675 888), and practice good farm biosecurity.
Overseas cow with lumpy skin disease.
Photo: Michael Patching.
Disease distribution overseas
In March 2022, LSD was detected in cattle in northern Indonesia.
In 2019, detections were reported for the first time in Bangladesh, China and India. In 2020, reports of the disease were made in Taiwan, Nepal, Vietnam, Bhutan, Hong Kong and Myanmar. In 2021, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Malaysia experienced outbreaks.
LSD is established in countries such as Africa, Russia, Kazakhstan, South-East Europe, and the Middle East.
LSD can cause serious animal health and welfare concerns from the painful skin lesions and other disease symptoms. The disease can also have implications for animal production through emaciation, decreased milk production, damaged hides, reproductive losses, and in severe cases even animal mortalities.
If there was an incursion of LSD in Australia, the impacts would be significant and far-reaching across the country (including Tasmania). There would be considerable economic losses with restrictions being placed on both domestic and international markets. Live animal export trade and the export of genetic materials, dairy products, animal by-products such as hides, and some meat products would be significantly impacted.
Tasmania would not be excluded from being impacted by a detection of LSD on mainland Australia and there would likely be initial restrictions on export markets and livestock or product movements.
Disease signs (cattle)
Clinical signs of LSD in cattle include:
- Firm, raised nodules up to 50 mm in diameter developing on the skin around the head, neck, genitals and limbs (can develop on any part of the body).
- Scabs developing in the centre of nodules, followed by the scabs falling off and leaving large holes which may become infected.
- Swollen limbs, brisket, and genitals.
- Watering eyes.
- Increased nasal and salivary secretion.
- Some animals may be asymptomatic (have the disease but display no signs).
The LSD virus can persist in the scabs for up to four months after an animal is infected and can persist in the environment for extended periods.
Some other diseases of cattle may result in similar clinical signs. If in doubt, contact your veterinarian or call the Emergency Animal Disease Hotline on 1800 675 888.
Overseas cow with lumpy skin disease.
Photo: Michel Bellaiche (Kimron Veterinary Institute)
Overseas cow with lumpy skin disease (close up).
Photo: Michel Bellaiche (Kimron Veterinary Institute)
The transmission of the LSD virus is not completely understood. Routes of transmission include mechanical transmission by arthropod (insect) vectors such as mosquitoes, biting flies and ticks. The disease can also spread by fomites such as contaminated equipment and in some cases directly from animal to animal.
The disease has shown its ability to establish and spread in a wide range of environmental conditions and production systems around the world.
Prevention at the border
The Commonwealth Government undertake a range of actions at Australia's international border to manage biosecurity risks that could pose a threat to Australia, such as LSD. There are strict requirements in place for the checking and clearance of incoming air and sea passengers, cargo (including livestock) and mail items to ensure biosecurity risks are appropriately managed at the border.
Biosecurity Tasmania works closely with the Commonwealth Government to manage the risk associated with vessels and cargo that arrive direclty into Tasmania from an overseas point of departure. Import conditions are always subject to review when there are changes to the level of biosecurity risk.
If you are travelling to Australia, importing goods or ordering goods through the mail, there are strict requirements that must be met. You can check the requirements for travel and import into Australia on the Australian Commonwealth biosecurity website. Biosecurity Tasmania also have web pages that will assist you in better understanding Tasmania's import and travel requirements.
Returning travellers to Tasmania who have recently spent time in an overseas country (in particular Indonesia) are asked to present themselves to Biosecurity Tasmania Officers upon arrival.
While there are strict import conditions to protect Australia from diseases entering through traveller, cargo and mail pathways, this disease could enter through natural pathways such as biting insects entering on the wind.
What would happen in the first few days if we had an outbreak on mainland Australia but were able to keep it out of Tasmania?
- Our key export markets would still be closed to us.
- An immediate ban on all livestock entering Tasmania would be implemented.
- The national livestock standstill would be followed by restrictions and increased biosecurity measures on the movement of livestock to limit undetected infection. This includes movement of Tasmanian stock to the mainland.
- There would be restrictions on the movement of animal products (such as meat and dairy produce).
- There would be increased messaging at entry points reminding people arriving in Tasmania from the mainland to be aware of biosecurity.
- All susceptible livestock that had entered Tasmania in the previous four weeks would be traced and subjected to mandatory surveillance.
- If no case of LSD occurs in Tasmania for at least eight weeks after the livestock standstill has been in force, it is likely that the disease has been successfully kept out of the State. Surveillance and vigilance would need to be maintained however while the disease was present on the mainland.
- Once we are confident LSD was not in Tasmania, we would send teams of biosecurity staff to the mainland to help eliminate the disease over there.
There is currently no approved LSD vaccine available for use in Australia. Vaccine options are currently being examined nationally, as a priority task.
There are some commercially available vaccines overseas. Success of vaccination for LSD is varied, with outbreaks in southern Europe successfully controlled with vaccination however in other areas it has not been successful.
Eradication of LSD is difficult; therefore, early detection is essential for control and eradication.
It is critical that anyone who owns or works with cattle are aware of what LSD looks like and reports any signs of the disease in cattle immediately to the Emergency Animal Disease Hotline (1800 675 888) or to their veterinarian.
It is essential early cases of LSD are not missed, so even if you are not sure still contact your veterinarian or the Emergency Animal Disease Hotline.
LSD can appear similar to other local/endemic diseases, therefore a correct diagnosis will rely on laboratory tests. It is worth consulting your vet, even if you think that a disease is something normally present. LSD is a nationally notifiable disease, meaning if you suspect an animal may have LSD, you must report it.
Good farm biosecurity and livestock traceability
Practicing good farm biosecurity will help protect your livestock, business and industry from the negative impacts of introduced animal diseases. Make sure your farm has a farm biosecurity plan or if you already have a plan in place, now is the time to ensure it is up to date.
Livestock traceability is extremely important in the case of a serious animal disease outbreak. In this case, trace back of where an infected or potentially exposed animal has been, can help with quickly responding to a possible outbreak. It’s more important than ever to ensure you complete a Vendor Declaration and notify the National Livestock Identification Scheme database (NLIS) if you are purchasing livestock or moving livestock from one property to another.
We all have a General Biosecurity Duty (GBD) to help protect our state and country from the negative impacts of pests, weeds and diseases (including exotic animal diseases such as LSD). Report any possible signs of LSD in livestock, maintain good biosecurity practices, and follow any biosecurity import requirements in place to help meet your GBD.