National Animal Disease Control Programme (NADCP) – Will it deliver?

The Prime Minister had inaugurated the national Animal Disease Control Program at Uttar Pradesh’s Mathura. It aims to eradicate 2 major diseases affecting the Indian livestock- Foot and Mouth Disease/ FMD and the Brucellosis. Both these diseases are of major concern, especially to the dairy industry.

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What is FMD?

  • Foot and Mouth disease/ FMD is a viral disease that infects cloven-hoofed animals like cow, sheep, pig, goat, etc.
  • It is caused by Picornavirus called the Foot-and-Mouth disease virus. The virus is spread by contact with the infected animal, aerosol, infection laden fodder, vehicles used for transporting the infected animals, etc.
  • The symptoms include high fever, blisters in the mouth, blisters on the feet, lameness, weight loss, reduction in milk yields, inflammation of the heart and even death in some cases.
  • Some of the infected animals are asymptomatic and remain as carriers of the disease.
  • The virus doesn’t affect humans significantly. It is intolerant to stomach acids and hence an infection cannot be contracted through consumption of the animal products.
  • The virus is of more concern to the animal husbandry sector than to the human health sector. Very few cases of human fatality due to FMD have been recorded.
  • The disease causes major monetary loses to the animal husbandry sector.
  • Vaccination is the preferred means of controlling the disease.

What is Brucellosis?

  • Brucellosis is a bacterial disease caused by Brucella bacteria. This is a gram-negative bacteria which is highly contagious in nature.
  • It is spread through infected meat, milk and milk products especially in raw form, contact with the infected animal, inhalation of the pathogen, etc.
  • It affects cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, etc. It can also affect humans to a large extent unlike in case of FMD.
  • Symptoms include night sweats, muscular pain, fever, low blood cells count, gastrointestinal issues like diarrhoea, appetite loss, weight loss, etc. In cattle, it causes abortions and arthritic joints.
  • Of the four different species of Brucella bacteria, B. melitensis is the most widespread in the world. It mainly affects goats. The other 3 species are Brucella suis (targets pigs), Brucella abortus (that affects cows, buffalo, etc.), and Brucella canis (that affects dogs). All these species affect humans.
  • Antibiotics and vaccines are used for tackling the disease.

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What is the effect of these diseases in India?

  • The 20th Livestock Census showed that India has the largest livestock population in the world with 125.5 crore animals. A major portion of the population is cows (about 37%) followed by buffaloes, goat, and sheep.
  • The livestock sector contributes about 4% to the national GDP. The sector contributes 16% to small farmers’ income. It is a major fall-back for small farmers, especially in light of uncertain monsoons and land degradation affecting successful agriculture.
  • India is also a major milk producer nation.
  • ICAR had estimated that the direct losses to India due to FMD is about 18,000 crore INR annually. Indirect losses amount to 30,000 crore INR annually.
  • The loss is mainly due to a drop in milk production. A cow infected with the virus may show up to 100% drop in milk yields. As the disease is not fatal in many cases, the farmers continue to provide for its sustenance and treatment which contributes to the indirect loses.
  • Export of FMD infected animal products are banned. Hence the sector faces a major disadvantage in the global market.
  • Brucellosis disease also constitutes a major economic burden for the livestock sector in India.
  • Main sources of economic loss from Brucellosis infection are milk loss, treatment cost and loss of aborted calves. Most of the loss is felt by the dairy sector alone as the infection reduces milk output by 30%.
  • These diseases are of special concern among the small farmers and rural livestock sector, where the losses would be felt more keenly.

How will the program eradicate these diseases?

  • India has been undertaking intensive control programs to curb FMD since 2003-04. The program had covered 8 states and 6 UTs. The program has been covering the entire country as of 2017-18.
  • The intensive control program involves vaccination, awareness campaigns for stakeholders, surveillance of the animal population, etc.
  • The National Animal Disease Control Program will tackle both the diseases by use of mass vaccinations.
  • This is a centrally funded project worth 12,652 crore INR and will span 5 years (until 2024).
  • Overall, 600 million animals are targeted for vaccination under the program. Of this 500 million livestock will be vaccinated against FMD.
  • 36 million female bovine calves are to be vaccinated against Brucellosis every year.
  • The program will work with 2 goals: control the disease by 2025 and eradicate the disease by 2030.
  • The vaccine against FMD is given to the animals which are 4 months or older. It also involves a booster dose.
  • The FMD vaccines produced in India are Raksha, Bovilis Clovax and Raksha Ovac. These are given once every six months normally. In FMD endemic zones, the vaccination is done once every 4 months.
  • Since the FMD virus has several serotypes (distinct types under the same species), the vaccine has to be specific for the type of virus involved. There is no cross-protection between the serotypes. This means a vaccine against one serotype will not protect the animal from the other serotypes.
  • The vaccine against Brucellosis is given only to female calves that are between 4 to 8 months old. This vaccination is done only once in a lifetime.
  • India uses the Bruvax vaccine. It contains live strains of the bacteria in a modified form.

What is the global impact of these diseases?

FMD

  • With respect to the status of FMD in a country, the World Organisation for Animal Health classifies the states into 3 categories:
  1. FMD free with vaccination.
  2. FMD free without vaccination
  3. FMD present with/ without vaccination.
  • This categorisation plays a major role in determining the access a country has to the global livestock market. Of the 3 categories, the states that are FMD free without vaccination enjoy the maximum access to the market. Eg: USA.
  • It is noted that the USA had faced several FMD outbreaks in its history but controlled the issue through the use of measures ranging from vaccination to mass culling.
  • This categorisation is done to prevent the global spread of the disease via imports and exports. Also routine blood screening cannot distinguish between an infected and a vaccinated animal. It would simply show the presence of a virus.
  • High-income countries invest heavily to keep the disease out of their livestock population. They also use trade barriers to keep animal products from FMD prone countries out of their markets.
  • Food and Agricultural organisation of the UN propose slaughtering of infected and exposed animals as the best way to control outbreaks and achieve recognition as an FMD free zone quickly.

Brucellosis:

  • The highest incidence of Brucellosis is seen in the Middle-East, the Mediterranean Region, Sub-Saharan Africa, India, China, Peru, and Mexico.
  • Currently, the countries located in the Central and South-west Asia are seeing the greatest increase in the Brucellosis cases.
  • Several nations located in Western and Northern Europe is believed to be free from this disease.
  • The other countries like Canada, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand are also free from the agent.
  • The mass eradication campaigns by these countries have made them free from this agent.
  • The Brucella species were weaponised by the advanced countries in the 20th
  • In 1954, suis was used as a biological weapon by the US.
  • The US had destroyed their entire biological weapons in 1971-72 under the order of President Nixon.

Way forward

  • Given the increasing population of livestock in the country as evident from the 20th livestock census, such programs focusing on safeguarding the health of the animals is vital.
  • Improving the quality of livestock is essential for improving farmer income.
  • Such measures are more efficient in ensuring farmer welfare than income supports.
  • Given the restrictions imposed on animal products from FMD affected countries, India needs to take more proactive measures to achieve the status of FMD free nation.
  • Delay in dealing with the problem impedes India from realising its potential as a global leader in the livestock sector. The dairy industry needs a major boost in this region.
  • Given India’s reluctance towards culling cattle, mass vaccination is the next best option. However, care must be taken as consumer countries are wary of developing countries resorting to mass vaccination campaigns to mask outbreaks.
  • Mass vaccination campaigns must be sustained over the long term. Otherwise, it will not be possible to break the transmission cycle.
  • A major issue in tackling FMD is the temporary nature of the protection offered by the vaccines. Repetitive vaccination implies a requirement of veterinary infrastructure, especially in rural areas.
  • Making the vaccines readily available to the animal husbandry sector is vital in improving coverage. In the absence of universal coverage, the entire purpose of making India free from these diseases would be lost given the contagious nature of these diseases.
  • More research and development is to be encouraged to evolve more efficient ways of curbing the disease.
  • Surveillance is an important component in the fight against these diseases. The state must take measures to monitor outbreaks, hotspots, etc.
  • Awareness is also a vital component. Farmers must be educated on the necessity of vaccinating their livestock.
  • Occupational hygiene is to be emphasised on to prevent adverse health effects among the farmworkers.
  • Farm hygiene, good practices, etc., must be standardised. These should be followed by the animal husbandry sector to reduce the vulnerability to the diseases.
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