Cattle blood parasite found in Victoria

Beef Central, 17/10/2011

Victoria's Department of Primary Industries (DPI) is advising cattle producers in North East Victoria and Gippsland to be aware of the recent increase of theileriosis (T. buffeli) cases.

In a press release issued today DPI District Veterinary Officer Lee Manning said while theileria was common in northern NSW and Queensland, and that cattle had developed immunity and didn’t show any illness, it had been rarely seen in Victoria.

“Theileria is a blood parasite, which typically infects cattle through a tick bite,” Dr Manning

“Victorian beef and dairy herds have been infected when cattle from the northern states,
carrying ticks infested with theileria, are introduced into a herd or on to adjoining properties.

“The parasite can cause illness and even death to cattle that have not previously been
exposed to theileria.

“Theileria is transmitted by blood-sucking ticks, including the common bush tick, which is
widespread in Victoria. It can be carried by all mammals, including wildlife, dogs and cats, as
well as birds.”

Other instances where blood may be transmitted between cattle, including blood sucking
insects, needles, ear notching and castration, could potentially transmit theileria also.

Dr Manning said there was no specific treatment for theileriosis; only symptomatic treatment
could be provided, including good nursing, but cattle with severe anaemia may not recover.

“The disease causes mild to severe anaemia due to destruction of red blood cells and this
can be seen as lethargy, weakness, pale mucous membranes, a drop in milk production,
going off feed, difficulty breathing, abortions, jaundice and sudden death,” she said.

“Cattle are more likely to show signs when stressed, especially at the point of calving but
most infected cattle will have benign theileriosis and show no signs of illness. Bush ticks are
almost impossible to eradicate from a property because they are on and off the host in a
week and live in pasture for many months, as well as surviving on wildlife.

“This parasite is not T. parva, which is an exotic parasite causing East Coast Fever in Africa.
It is endemic in northern Australia, although rarely diagnosed in Victoria.”

Contact your local veterinarian for advice if your cattle are showing multiple abortions, signs
of anaemia or any other unusual signs. The disease can be confirmed by laboratory testing.

For more information, contact your local veterinarian or local DPI Animal Health staff.


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