Lumpy skin disease

Lumpy skin disease (LSD) is a devastating disease of cattle and buffalo caused by a capripox virus.

The disease has never been recorded in Australia but is spreading rapidly internationally.

With the heightened awareness internationally of LSD, it is important that Australia, with its large dairy and beef export markets, is able to confidently and credibly demonstrate on-going freedom from this disease.

Equally, it is important that veterinary practitioners are aware of the disease and are able to recognise it quickly if an incursion should occur.

To assist with both of these objectives, the Victorian Significant Disease Investigation (SDI) program supports sample collection and submission from cases where it is appropriate to consider LSD as a potential differential diagnosis.

To be eligible for investigation under the SDI program, cases must be:

  • cattle or buffalo of any age
  • resident in Victoria
  • showing multiple, cutaneous skin lesions.

Samples from single animals are eligible, but cases involving several cattle on the same property are preferred.

Samples to collect:

  • Skin lesions (excision or biopsy) – One sample in saline and a duplicate in formalin,
  • Blood – One each of clotted/serum (red/gold top) tube and EDTA blood tube.

Submission, documentation and approvals process will be as per usual for a SDI investigation. Always discuss the case with your local department veterinary officer before submission.

If lumpy skin disease is suspected, please call the disease hotline on 1800 675 888 immediately.

What is lumpy skin disease?

Lumpy skin disease (LSD) is a disease of cattle and buffalo caused by a capripox virus.

Since 2012, LSD has spread from Africa and the Middle East into south-eastern Europe, affecting European Union (EU) Member countries (Greece and Bulgaria) and several other countries in the Balkans.

LSD was first reported in Asia and the Pacific region in 2019 in north west China, Bangladesh and India. During 2020, LSD continued to spread across continental Asia with many countries including Bhutan, Hong Kong, Myanmar, Nepal, Taiwan, Vietnam and Sri Lanka, reporting outbreaks.

The World Organisation for Animal Health (the OIE) is encouraging members in at-risk areas to initiate vaccination campaigns ahead of virus entry and to continue timely reporting of all outbreaks [1].

The European Union has implemented an intensive (and expensive) vaccination and culling program to halt the spread of the disease.

With LSD moving through Asia, the risk of this disease entering Australia is increasing. The potential economic impact of an incursion would be considerable due to the disruption of trade in livestock and livestock products, as well as costs associated with disease control and eradication.

How is the virus spread?

It is not fully understood how lumpy skin disease virus is transmitted between animals. It is believed that arthropod vectors, direct contact, contaminated feed and water and iatrogenic means (for example, repeated use of needles on different animals) can all spread the disease.

The virus is present in high concentrations in the skin nodules and scabs on affected animals and can be isolated from blood, saliva, ocular and nasal discharges and semen.

Lumpy skin disease virus can be found in blood for up to 21 days post-infection but shedding in semen may continue for at least 42 days post-infection.

What are the clinical signs of lumpy skin disease?

The incubation period is between 4 and 14 days post-infection.

After an initial period of high fever (41°C) and swollen lymph glands, the animal may develop large, firm nodules that are up to 5 cm in diameter in the skin.

These can be found all over the body, but particularly on the:

  • head
  • neck
  • udder
  • scrotum
  • perineum.

The nodules may become necrotic and ulcerate, leading to an increased risk of flystrike.

Black cow with lumpy skin around its neck.A young brown cow with lumps over its body.

Dairy cattle in peak production are often the most severely affected with a marked decrease in milk production. Depression, anorexia, rhinitis, conjunctivitis and excess salivation may also be observed.

In severely affected animals, necrotic lesions can also develop in the respiratory and gastrointestinal tract.

The disease can be subclinical (up to 50% of cases in an outbreak) or may be very severe or even fatal. Morbidity varies between 5 to 45% and mortality rate usually remains below 10% but both rates can be considerably higher when an outbreak occurs in a naïve cattle population.

What diseases of cattle could look like lumpy skin disease?

  • Ringworm and infection with other dermatophytes
  • Dermatophilus infection
  • Cutaneous leucosis
  • Parapox (bovine popular stomatitis)
  • Bovine herpes mammilitis
  • Pseudo lumpy skin disease (bovine herpesvirus 2)
  • Photosensitisation
  • Insect bites
  • Urticaria
  • Demodectic mange
  • Trauma, including burns
  • Actinobacillosis (cutaneous form due to infection with Actinobacillus lignieresi)

How is lumpy skin disease controlled?

Management of lumpy skin disease relies on vaccination, control of animal movements and culling infected animals.

More information

Please contact your local veterinary officer or:

Dr Sally Salmon
Manager Epidemiology and Risk
Chief Veterinary Officer's Unit
Agriculture Victoria
Phone: (03) 5662 9921

Karen Moore
Senior Surveillance Officer
Chief Veterinary Officer's Unit
Agriculture Victoria
Phone: (03) 5430 4525

[1] As presented at the 6th plenary session of the 86th General Assembly of the OIE, 20–25 May 2018

Image credits

  1. Photo of black cow courtesy of Dr Pip Beard, Pirbright, UK.
  2. Photo of young cow courtesy of Dr Neil Fourie/Prof Estelle Venter, South Africa.
Page last updated: 02 Sep 2021