At least a dozen cows this winter have died within hours after showing identical symptoms in and around Jamshedpur, but as the fatal disease has not yet been ascertained, it is cause for alarm for the city with around 50,000 cattle population.
Areas where cows have been reported dead include Ranikudar, Bhatia Bustee, Sonari and Ramnagar, as well as Adityapur in adjoining Seraikela-Kharsawan.
Observers said the disease struck adult cows, especially strays in the street and in marketplaces. Death is fast and symptoms distinct. The cow can't stand throughout the day, sinks and foams in the mouth and dies by the evening.
District animal husbandry officer Jitendra Kumar, who set up a probe team on Tuesday, however has come up with a blank.
One of Kumar's subordinates who headed the three-member team, Ashutosh Majhi said they surveyed Kadma, Sonari and Ranikudar on Tuesday but came across only one cow death.
"A cow has died recently at Ranikudar area. The cause was foot-and-mouth disease or Aphthae epizooticae, an infectious and sometimes fatal viral ailment. We did not get any other case of cow death," Majhi told The Telegraph.
He admitted they had approached only houses with cattle sheds and had not included stray cows in the survey.
A district animal husbandry department official who did not want to be quoted said the mortality rate of stray cows went up in winter due to the mercury slide.
"Cows who roam outside and sleep on roads and fields are exposed to chilling cold. But we will probe into the matter of unusually high deaths," said the official.
Officials seem to be taking the deaths lightly as the mortalities have not been recorded. But if unchecked, the cattle scare can reach endemic proportions.
As veterinary experts say, cattle are vulnerable to certain respiratory and reproductive diseases as well as the common diarrhoea.
For example, bacteria infections such as Haemophilus somnus, Mannheimia haemolytica and Pasteurella multocida result in very fast fatalities.
Contagious bovine venereal disease called trichomoniasis can also strike fast and prove fatal.
But, in the absence of a medical probe, it cannot be said whether it is a known or an unknown ailment.
Cattle owners vouch for the fact that they have not seen anything like this before.
Adityapur cattle owner Ravi Kanth Sharma, who lost a cow this month, said he was shocked at how fast the animal died.
"Last Saturday morning, the cow couldn't stand upright. We tried to feed it some traditional medicine. But its condition deteriorated and ultimately it succumbed that evening. It has never happened before. I spoke to a vet but got no answer," Sharma, who also works in an Adityapur industrial area unit, said.
Have you witnessed a cattle death in your locality?