A disease that could cause death in cattle but hasn't gotten much attention in Ohio is being reported to veterinarians, indicating a need to get more producers to understand what the disease is and how to combat it, a pair of Ohio State University Extension experts said. Bovine anaplasmosis is a bloodborne disease that could cause severe anemia shortly after a cow is infected, which in some cases results in death or abortions, said William Shulaw, an OSU Extension beef/sheep veterinarian. And cows that recover from the disease become a lifetime carrier of the bacteria that causes it unless it is successfully treated, he said. The disease is typically transmitted through biting flies and blood-contaminated inanimate objects such as hypodermic needles, some tagging instruments, surgical instruments, nose tongs, and possibly tattoo equipment, Shulaw said. Although there is a disease called "anaplasmosis" in human beings, it is not the same, and the disease in cows is not transmitted to humans, he said.
"It's a disease that'd been in Ohio for quite a while, with veterinarians reporting several cases each year, yet many producers don't know about it," Shulaw said. "Most cases are reported in the fall, which suggests that horseflies are a common vector for the disease in our region. "Incubation is a few days to a couple of months, but it can occur any time of the year when the disease is transmitted." To help producers learn more about the disease, OSU Extension and the Morgan County Soil and Water Conservation District are sponsoring a free workshop on the subject Dec. 11 at 7 p.m. in the Morgan High School cafeteria, 800 Raider Drive, 3.2 miles south of McConnelsville at state Route 376. Producers need to understand how significant this disease is for their herds, said Chris Penrose, an OSU Extension educator.
"If you get it, it's a major concern," he said. "It's out there and we want people to be aware of it and to know what to look for. "The goal is to educate people on how the disease spreads and know how to deal with it if any of your animals get it. We've had some cases in our area every year, and people want to learn more." Animals that develop the clinical signs of anaplasmosis are usually older than a year, and the signs usually begin with a fever of about 104 degrees or higher, Shulaw said. "The red blood count can fall very rapidly and animals can become severely anemic in just a few days," he said.
"As the anemia progresses, the animal gets weak, reduces or refuses feed intake, and becomes lethargic." Lack of oxygen to the animal's brain resulting from anemia may cause it to act aggressively or behave abnormally, Shulaw said, noting that cows in advanced pregnancy may abort. Treatment with injectable tetracycline will usually halt an outbreak in a herd and may prevent the development of severe anemia in an animal already incubating the disease, he said.
"It can be a large loss and take a while to get the disease under control," Penrose said. "It's been around for a while but people are just now becoming aware of it even though it has caused some significant impact in some Ohio herds in recent years. "Knowing what to look for is important because a well explained death may be better than a poorly explained recovery. If we know why the animal died, we could potentially know how to prevent it in other animals."