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Disease carried by ‘self-cloning’ ticks kills cattle in two Kentucky counties

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  • Disease carried by ‘self-cloning’ ticks kills cattle in two Kentucky counties

    UPDATED AUGUST 13, 2022 7:08 PM


    A new disease carried by an invasive species of tick has killed cattle in two counties, and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture is alerting farmers of the emerging risk to their herds. The illness, caused by a protozoan called Theileria orientalis Ikeda, caused the death of one beef breed bull in Hart County and another in Fleming County. The Asian longhorned tick is known to carry the disease. The agriculture department said Friday that there was no relationship between the two affected herds. The illness does not affect people.

    “Though a threat to cattle, the disease is not a threat to human health,” the agriculture department’s news release stated. “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.” Theileria “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,” the ag department said.

    A blood test can confirm the disease. Cattle that are infected can then become carriers affecting other members of the herd, the state said. Because “there is no approved effective treatment or vaccine for the disease,” the state said it’s important to work to prevent it. The Kentucky Department of Agriculture is working with the University of Kentucky and Murray State University and the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine Diagnostic Laboratory to set up a “passive surveillance system” to help identify the presence of the tick and the disease in Kentucky.

    ... Aside from livestock, the Asian longhorned tick also can attach itself to wildlife, birds, cats, dogs and humans, sometimes in large numbers. The ticks, which are known for their ability to “clone” themselves, were first found in the United States in New Jersey in 2017, and they were found to have spread into Kentucky in 2020.