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Potentially fatal tick borne parasite found in Kentucky cattle

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture is warning cattle farmers to be on the lookout for symptoms of a potentially fatal tick borne parasite. Theileria Orientalis Ikeda causes infectious anemia in cows and is primarily spread by the Asian longhorned tick. Anemia is a condition where there are not enough red blood cells to properly carry oxygen throughout the body.

The illness was discovered in cattle in Fleming and Hart counties.

Dr. Kerry Barling is Deputy State Veterinarian of Kentucky. Dr. Barling described the illness as catastrophic anemia.

“Animals that catch the disease usually will run a fever, appear lethargic, dizzy, can't walk real good. If you would look at their mucous membranes, they'd be anywhere from pale to jaundice color,” said Dr. Barling.

Dr. Barling said animals that recover from the disease remain infectious through their lives.

The Asian longhorned tick and the disease were discovered in the US in 2017 and have since been found in several states.

“This is a very emerging disease that has caught the attention of people throughout the country. The rapidity that both the disease and the tick has moved geographically is very alarming,” said Barling.

There is no treatment or vaccine for the disease, so Dr. Barling said primary efforts are on prevention.

The veterinarian said that means reducing the chances cattle will be bitten by the Asian longhorned tick. Dr. Barling said farmers should use insecticides, mow tall grass and keep cows away from wooded areas.

Cattle blood testing is available through the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.

Copyright 2022 WEKU. To see more, visit WEKU.

Samantha Morrill
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