Brucellosis in Livestock - Triple Whammy

Rapidly growing commercial dairy industry, frequent cross -state trading of carrier animals and lackadaisical attitude of Dept. of Animal Husbandry, Ministry of Agriculture have all ensured that Brucellosis remains one of the major economic and zoonotic threats to dairy farmers and farm workers across entire India.

Brucellosis is pandemic in India – much to the dislike of the authorities – with prevalence of the disease ranging from 6.5% to 16.4% in different species of livestock (Lone et al., 2013; Aulakh et al., 2008; Kollannur et al., 2007; Shome et al., 2006; Thoppil, 2000).

With more than 50% of world buffalo population and reported, relatively higher prevalence rates in buffaloes, coupled with high populations of sheep, goats and pigs ensure that Brucella control requires more than a vaccine.

Key challenges persisting in Brucella control program are:

  • absence of an integrated control policy

  • failure to vaccinate young female calves

  • lack of good quality rapid diagnostic tests

  • ban on slaughter of cows in many Indian provinces

  • absence of any established treatment regimen and

  • normal trade practice of selling carrier animals to naive farmers

Being a zoonotic disease, Brucellosis is a major occupational hazard for human beings involved in animal husbandry. A few chilling stats:

Source: Bedi et al 2007; Deepthy et al. 2013

Apart from an occupational hazard, common unsuspecting public is also at risk of Brucella with consumption of raw, unpasteurized milk and milk products such as soft cheese etc.

Economic Losses due to Brucellosis

An extensive and impressive study has been carried out and published by Dr B B Singh – from Veterinary School of Ludhiana, Punjab in North of India.

(Ref: Singh, B.B., et al., Economic losses occurring due to brucellosis in Indian livestock populations. PREVET (2015), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.prevetmed.2015.03.013

Est. economic losses exceeding US $ 3 Billion ensure that Brucella is 3rd most expensive disease for Livestock Farmers in India after FMD & Mastitis.

Taking a cue, Govt. of India has belatedly formulated Brucellosis –Control program on the lines of FMD Control Program which involves vaccination of susceptible livestock by subsidized vaccines to the farmers.

However, this approach is falling short of control program objectives on account of:

These factors ensure that the majority of the funds spent go down the drain with a persistent high prevalence, high morbidities and aborted fetuses, resulting in disgruntled animal owners, whom the federal as well as state governments wanted to please in first place.

In absence of an integrated, effective control program – animals, dairy farmers and common man will continue running the risk of contracting Brucella.

With reported cases of infertility due to Brucella even among human beings apart from abortions in pregnant animals– that’s a huge cost to pay for inaction of the authorities.

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