Lumpy Skin Disease - Fact Sheet

What is lumpy skin disease?

Lumpy skin disease (LSD) is a viral disease that affects cattle.

LSD is characterized by the following symptoms:

  • depression;
  • fever; and
  • nodules of varying size on the skin, mucous membranes and internal organs.

This pox virus is very closely related to sheep and goat pox, from which it cannot be distinguished by routine diagnostic tests.

The disease affects only cattle. European channel breeds, such as Jersey, Guernsey, Friesian and Ayrshire, are particularly susceptible to LSD.

Is LSD a risk to human health?

No. There is no evidence that the virus can affect humans.

What are the clinical signs of LSD?

The most characteristic clinical signs are:

  • fever; and
  • circular, raised, firm and painful nodules or lumps on the skin especially around the head, neck, genitals, limbs and tail.

As the disease progresses, deep scabs form on the nodules and secondary bacterial infections often develop in the damaged skin.

Other signs include:

  • lameness and enlargement of the lymph nodes; and
  • swelling of the brisket and legs.

In severe cases signs include:

  • depression;
  • discharge from the nose and eyes;
  • excess salivation that accompanies the appearance of skin nodules;
  • loss of appetite;
  • reluctance to move; and
  • weight loss.

Although few adult cattle die from the disease, many become debilitated and can remain in extremely poor body condition for up to six months. The lumps take several months to heal and permanently damage the hide.

Where is LSD found?

LSD is found throughout Africa. It was first identified in Zambia in 1929 and has spread as far north as Egypt and Kuwait. An outbreak in Israel in 1989 was successfully brought under control.

Although LSD has the potential to become established outside of Africa, it has never occurred in Canada.

How is LSD transmitted and spread?

LSD is transmitted by biting insects such as mosquitoes, horse flies, deer flies, biting midges and tsetse flies. The disease is often found near river basins and other areas where these insects gather.

The most likely way for LSD to enter a new area is by the introduction of infected cattle into a herd. Biting insects that have fed on infected cattle can also spread the disease and can travel substantial distances.

The virus may persist for months in contaminated cattle hides, providing another source of the disease.

How is LSD diagnosed?

A tentative diagnosis of LSD can be made based on the above clinical signs as the nodules have a very characteristic appearance. Laboratory tests are needed to confirm diagnosis.

LSD must not be confused with pseudo-lumpy skin disease, which is a milder disease caused by a different type of virus.

How is LSD treated?

There is no treatment for LSD. In areas where the disease is common such as South Africa and Egypt, vaccination is used to prevent its occurrence.

What is done to protect Canadian livestock from LSD?

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) imposes strict regulations on the import of animals and animal products from countries where LSD is known to occur. These regulations are enforced through port-of-entry inspections done either by the Canada Border Services Agency or the CFIA.

LSD is a is a reportable disease under the Reportable Diseases Regulations, and all cases must be reported to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

How would the CFIA respond to an outbreak of LSD in Canada?

Canada's emergency response strategy to an outbreak of LSD would be to:

  • eradicate the disease; and
  • re-establish Canada's disease-free status as quickly as possible.

In an effort to eradicate LSD, the CFIA would use its "stamping out" policy, which includes:

  • humane destruction of all infected and exposed animals;
  • surveillance and tracing of potentially infected or exposed animals;
  • quarantine and animal movement controls to prevent spread;
  • decontamination of infected premises; and
  • zoning to define infected and disease-free areas.

In some cases, if it appears the virus has become widespread in the insect population, the strategy could be modified to include the emergency vaccination of animals that may be at more risk of becoming infected as well as the implementation of insect control measures. Owners whose animals are ordered destroyed may be eligible for compensation.

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