August 16, 2022


Two cases of new cattle disease confirmed in Kentucky, US


Two cases of a new, potentially dangerous disease of cattle has been detected in Kentucky, the United States, according to Kentucky State Veterinarian Katie Flynn.


Theileria orientalis Ikedia, which is a protozoon known to be carried by the Asian Longhorned tick, has been diagnosed in two beef herds, one in Fleming County and the second in Hart County. In each instance, a beef breed bull fell ill and died. There is no relationship between the herds.


"The Kentucky Department of Agriculture and the Office of the State Veterinarian is working closely with agriculture producers to contain these incidents and protect our herds across the state," Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said. "Protecting the health of livestock in the commonwealth is a top priority of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture."


Theileria is a tickborne protozoa that infects red and white blood cells causing severe anemia in cattle as well as abortions, stillbirths, weakness, reluctance to walk and death. Physical examination may reveal pale mucus membranes, high fever and elevated heart and respiratory rates. Theileria can be confused with Anaplasma marginale infections as both cause anemia. A blood test can distinguish the two diseases.


Once an animal is infected with Theileria, it becomes a carrier, which is a source of infection for other cattle in the herd. There is no approved effective treatment or vaccine for the disease, making prevention and biosecurity imperative.


While a threat to cattle, the disease is not a threat to human health. Humans cannot become sick from contact with affected cattle and consuming meat from affected cattle is safe provided the meat has been cooked to an appropriate temperature.


The Asian Longhorned tick has been found to be a primary carrier for this disease. The tick has previously been detected in Boone, Metcalfe, Floyd, Martin, Madison, Breathitt and Perry counties in Kentucky. It is possible that the tick is present and undetected in additional Kentucky counties.


In partnership with the University of Kentucky, Tick Laboratory, University of Kentucky Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, Murray State University Breathitt Veterinary Center and Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine Diagnostic Laboratory, the Office of the State Veterinarian is coordinating a passive surveillance system of tick and blood samples from cattle with clinical signs to help identify the presence of the Asian Longhorned tick and Theileria orientalis Ikeda in Kentucky.

- Kentucky Department of Agriculture

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