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Protecting Cattle from Tickborne Illnesses

Protecting Cattle from Tickborne Illnesses

Tracking the spread of contagions has proven to be crucial to preserving health. This extends to protecting cattle.

A Missouri State University research team recently discovered a species of tick in southwest Missouri that is harmful to cattle.

The team was led by Drs. David Claborn and Kip Thompso, faculty members in the master of public health program at Missouri State.

They were searching for the Asian longhorned tick, which can spread a deadly disease. Claborn notes it harms mainly cattle, not humans.

“Although the risk posed by the Asian Longhorned tick in the U.S. is primarily to cattle, the tick is a known vector of human diseases as well” said Claborn.

“It has a disease called theileria, which is like malaria, though malaria only infects red blood cells,” Claborn said. “Theileria affects all blood cells in all ages and can be very devastating to cattle.”

After being located on the East Coast four years ago, there was an Asian longhorned tick spotted in northwest Arkansas two years ago.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services asked if the Missouri State research team could find this tick in Missouri. In 2021, the department awarded the team a grant of $17,000 to conduct this survey.

The results

Research began in 2019, but halted in 2020 due to COVID. It resumed this year.

“In 2021, we focused on the southwest corner of the state and that is where we found them,” Claborn said.

By dragging through conservation sites and using baited traps, the team members collected 4,ooo samples of ticks. Out of that sampling, they were able to identify five Asian longhorned ticks.

What farmers need to know

Thompson asserts the best way for farmers to prevent harm from these ticks is to regularly check cattle and make sure they have repellent on.

The Missouri Department of Agriculture encourages farmers to keep grass and weeds trimmed and check their livestock regularly.

The team plans to continue conducting surveillance in conservation sites.  It’s hopeful to learn more about this species of tick.

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