Disease affecting cattle detected in Hart County

(KY3)
Published: Aug. 16, 2022 at 7:58 AM CDT
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HART COUNTY, Ky. (WBKO) - Two cases of a new, potentially dangerous, disease of cattle has been detected in Hart County and Fleming County, according to Kentucky State Veterinarian Dr. Katie Flynn.

Theileria orientalis Ikedia, which is a protozoon known to be carried by the Asian Longhorned tick, has been diagnosed in two beef herds in each county.

In each instance, a beef breed bull fell ill and died.

There is no relationship between the herds.

“The Kentucky Department of Agriculture and the Office of the State Veterinarian is working closely with agriculture producers to contain these incidents and protect our herds across the state,” Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said. “Protecting the health of livestock in the commonwealth is a top priority of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.”

Theileria is a tickborne protozoa that infects red and white blood cells causing severe anemia in cattle as well as abortions, stillbirths, weakness, reluctance to walk, and death.

“The tick tends to carry this organism and when it feeds on the cow and bloodmeal,” Deputy State Veterinarian, Kerry Barling. “It can possibly transmit the disease to the cow, the protozoa.”

Physical examination may reveal pale mucus membranes, high fever and elevated heart and respiratory rates.

Theileria can be confused with Anaplasma marginale infections because both cause anemia.

A blood test can distinguish the two diseases.

Once an animal is infected with Theileria, it becomes a carrier, which is a source of infection for other cattle in the herd.

“The disease can affect both genders, male and females, regardless of age. In fact, there are some reports that suggest that the disease may be more severe in younger cattle,” Barling said.

There is no approved effective treatment or vaccine for the disease, making prevention and biosecurity imperative.

“Keeping your pasture mowed short and keeping cattle away from wooded areas are all proven practices to minimize ticks,” Barling said. “If we use utilize some of the insecticides, we are able to prevent, control, and treat the presence of ticks.”

Though a threat to cattle, the disease is not a threat to human health.

Humans cannot become sick from contact with affected cattle, and consuming meat from affected cattle is safe provided the meat has been cooked to an appropriate temperature.

In partnership with the University of Kentucky, Tick Laboratory, University of Kentucky Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, Murray State University Breathitt Veterinary Center, and Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine Diagnostic Laboratory, the Office of the State Veterinarian is coordinating a passive surveillance system of tick and blood samples from cattle with clinical signs to help identify the presence of the Asian Longhorned Tick and Theileria orientalis Ikeda in Kentucky.

Barling advises farmers should remain vigilant of their herds and take them to the proper veterinarian if they develop symptoms.

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