Tickborne parasite that affects cattle detected in a herd in Maury County

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Posted at 7:03 PM, Jul 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-10 20:03:51-04

COLUMBIA, Tenn. (WTVF) — The State Veterinarian has announced the detection of Theileria orientalis in a herd of cattle in Maury County.

Theileria orientalis is a tickborne parasite that infects red and white blood cells and causes severe anemia in cattle. It is not a threat to human health, however.

Once infected, an animal is a carrier for life. There is no vaccine for prevention, nor effective treatment once contracted. Affected calves should be isolated from the rest of the herd.

Symptoms of infection can include anemia, pale gums, late-term abortions and fever. Pregnant heifers and calves are the most susceptible.

“The Asian long-horned tick is a common vector for this illness,” State Veterinarian Dr. Samantha Beaty said. “Although we have not yet confirmed the presence of ALT in Maury County, we know it’s already taken hold in several other Tennessee counties and will continue to spread. Cattle producers should take steps to protect their herds.”

Producers can minimize risk by keeping cattle out of wooded areas and keeping pastures mowed short, especially near wooded areas.

It is also recommended that cattle be regularly inspected for ticks. Notify a veterinarian if cattle show signs of lethargy or illness.

The affected herd has shown signs of illness and lethargy, with some deaths, despite veterinary attention and antibiotic treatments.

According to the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, humans cannot become sick from contact with affected cattle, and consuming the meat of affected cattle is safe if it's been cooked to an appropriate temperature.