Three-day-sickness warning

Beef Central, 04/12/2012

A case of three day sickness near Casino in northern New South Wales has prompted the North Coast Livestock Health and Pest Authority (LHPA) to alert producers to monitor their cattle for signs of the disease.

Three day sickness, or bovine ephemeral fever, is a viral disease of cattle that typically causes affected animals to display symptoms for a few days only. It is spread seasonally by biting insects, and traditionally occurs in Queensland and the north-eastern parts of NSW. Many cattle in these regions develop immunity to the disease because they are exposed as young animals.

Matt Ball, Senior District Veterinarian with the North Coast LHPA, said in addition to the positive test the authority has received reports of suspect cases of three day sickness from local producers.

“The spike in reports may be due to changes in weather patterns, which is a key factor in spread of the disease,” Dr Ball said. 

“Three day sickness typically spreads on the North Coast of NSW during December to April so the disease has appeared slightly early this year. There was limited spread of the disease last season so a larger group of animals may be lacking immunity this year.” 

Br Ball said the economic impact of the disease should be considered given its potential to affect fertility in bulls and that severely affected animals may die.

“Therefore, we’re recommending producers inspect mobs, particularly yearling animals, looking for signs of the disease – lameness/stiffness, drooling, lethargy and animals lying down,” he said.

“Depending on the animals affected treatment options vary. As a general rule, provide water, feed and shade to animals that are down. Cows in advanced pregnancy may abort. Heavy animals, such as bulls, older steers or fat cows can be badly affected. 

“If animals stay down for too long nerve and muscle damage may prevent them getting up again. For these cases producers should contact their veterinarian for treatment options. Prescription medicines, such as anti-inflammatories, can be useful for animals that are severely affected or not recovering quickly.”  

Dr Ball said there are vaccines for three day sickness which may be considered for higher value animals such as bulls.

“However, once cases are occurring it’s generally too late to vaccinate for immediate protection, but it may be worth considering for future protection,” he said.

“Other diseases can have similar signs to three day sickness so if producers are unsure they should seek a diagnosis from a veterinarian, especially if animals do not recover quickly.”

More information on bovine ephemeral fever is available at the NSW DPI website by clicking here



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