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Report cattle illnesses to keep diseases under control

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Written Tuesday, October 02, 2007  

Ohio producers who suspect their beef or dairy cattle are showing signs of epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) should report those symptoms to their local veterinarian.

Bill Shulaw, an Ohio State University Extension veterinarian, said that the recent outbreaks of foot and mouth disease and bluetongue in the United Kingdom should remind producers that reporting signs of illness or unusual behavior is important to keeping foreign animal diseases under control.

"Though EHD is a non-reportable disease in Ohio, and typically causes very mild symptoms in cattle, the disease is very similar to other diseases, such as bluetongue, which is a reportable illness," said Shulaw, with the Department of Veterinary Preventive Medicine. "Producers are encouraged to report any suspected cases of EHD." Symptoms in cattle include lameness, salivation, cloudy nasal discharge, swelling of the coronary band (growth area of the hoof), mouth lesions, conjunctivitis and a decrease in milk production.

EHD has been reported in deer throughout Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia since August. The disease is spread through the bite of blood-feeding gnats or midges of the genus Culicoides. EHD outbreaks in deer are common throughout the southern United States. In Ohio, this is the third EHD outbreak in deer in five years and the first time EHD cases have been seen in Ohio cattle. Outbreaks in cattle have also been reported in Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia and Tennessee.

Shulaw said that such multi-state outbreaks in this region are unusual, and suspects that environmental factors are favoring the development of the midge and its ability to transmit the virus.

"The virus is only spread through the bite of the midge and not from animal to animal. That is one thing that is important for people to understand," said Shulaw. "And environmental factors, such as temperature and moisture, have a big impact on midge development and whether or not it spreads the virus. I suspect this prolonged warm weather we've been having in September has facilitated these outbreaks and the transmission of the virus won't stop until we have our first killing frost."

Though EHD symptoms don't look pleasant, their impact on cattle is usually relatively mild. Most cattle will recover after a few days. There is no vaccination or treatment specific for EHD, and animals exhibiting severe symptoms may need to be separated from the herd and administered antibiotics to reduce any inflammations.

Shulaw said that applying insect repellents approved for cattle may help protect the animals from biting midges that may be carrying the virus.

For more information on EHD, log on to the OSU Extension Beef Team Web site at http://fairfield.osu.edu/ag/beef/beefSepmbr7.html , or http://fairfield.osu.edu/ag/beef/beefSept19.html . Photos of cattle with the disease can be found at http://www.vet.ohio-state.edu/1985.htm . Producers can also call the Ohio Department of Agriculture at (614) 728-6220, or the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal Plant Health Inspection Service at (614) 856-4735.

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