Theileriosis Disease Discovered in Australian Cattle

AUSTRALIA - Biosecurity SA has identified the cattle disease Theileriosis in South Australia at a farm in the State’s south-east.
calendar icon 23 October 2014
clock icon 2 minute read

The disease, endemic in high rainfall areas of New South Wales and Victoria, is caused by a blood parasite and usually transmitted by bush ticks. It has no human health implications.

South Australia’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr Roger Paskin, said the discovery of the disease was made following the death of five cattle.

"The disease seen in Australia is usually mild or 'benign' – deaths are uncommon in areas where the disease is endemic and clinical signs may not be seen at all except in each new crop of calves or in introduced cattle," he said.

"The disease can however be more severe when it moves into new areas, where animals have not been previously exposed and some animals may become ill and a few may die."

Dr Paskin said investigations into the outbreak are still ongoing while PIRSA’s Biosecurity SA collates further information to establish the extent of the problem.

He said Theileriosis is a tick-borne disease usually carried by bush ticks which hitch rides on native animals.

"Given the way the disease can be spread, in this instance a quarantine on the property would not be an effective mitigation tool,” Dr Paskin said.

"It is therefore for that reason that Biosecurity SA is alerting producers and veterinarians to be aware of the presence of the disease in South Australia.

"It is also important that producers and veterinarians are aware of how to protect further animals from possible infections. South Australian vets have been made aware of this condition and farmers requiring further information should contact their local vet or nearest animal health office."

Dr Paskin said cattle infected with Theileriosis present a wide range of symptoms.

"Affected animals have pale mucous membranes (anaemic), lose weight, are listless, depressed and run out of breath when moved," he said.

"As the disease advances, liver damage occurs and the mucous membranes show signs of jaundice (i.e. they become yellow in colour).

"In the early stages of disease, infected animals develop a fever and pregnant cows may abort."

Producers who suspect Theileriosis among their cattle are urged to contact their local veterinarian.

There is no specific treatment for Theileriosis and individual nursing care is recommended. In most instances Cattle are known to fully recover from the disease.

Dr Paskin said that the disease affects cattle only and is not transmissible to humans.

For further information on benign Theileriosis contact your local veterinarians or nearest animal health office.

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