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Blood Parasite Increase Seen in KY Cattle

Alachua County, Flickr/Creative Commons

  Livestock transport could be causing an increase in a deadly blood parasite affecting the commonwealth’s cattle industry. Murray State University Breathitt Veterinary Center department head Lucky Pittman says their diagnostic lab in Hopkinsville receives calls daily about anaplasmosis, a parasite carried mostly by ticks, biting flies and even surgical instruments.

“Historically this has been considered a disease of the southeastern U.S. but there have been cases diagnosed in the northern tier of the U.S. because people and their animals move around much more readily than they have in the past,” said Pittman.

Anaplasmosis is now widespread across the state according to Pittman,  though more cases have been confirmed in the western portion than central and eastern Kentucky.

The causative agent of bovine anaplasmosis, Anaplasmamarginale, is a bacterial organism that Pittmans says affects the red blood cell of cattle typically 2 years and older, causing the animals to rapidly become anemic and jaundiced.

“It certainly can be a devastating condition in some herds when it gets introduced...

Often times when producers are bringing their animals in they may have lost 3 or 4 or 5 animals. They may have had some cows that were aborting calves because of the anemia that results from this parasite,” explained Pittman.

Pittman says treatment regimens vary from herd to herd, the most common involving injectable low level antibiotics from March to November, when ticks are most prevalent.

“There is also a vaccine that is available, so those are things the livestock producer would need to discuss with their veterinarians as far as what would be the best approach for them to control the disease problem in their own herds.” Pittman said.

Most cattle according to Pittman are not insured, so an infestation can costs thousands of dollars depending on the market and value of the animals.

Livestock owners should be cautious until the first frost hits or a “good killing freeze” that Pittman says will end the seasonal disease until next Spring.

Nicole Erwin is a Murray native and started working at WKMS during her time at Murray State University as a Psychology undergraduate student. Nicole left her job as a PTL dispatcher to join the newsroom after she was hired by former News Director Bryan Bartlett. Since, Nicole has completed a Masters in Sustainable Development from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia where she lived for 2 1/2 years.
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