13 June 1997

Red water fever risks

INCIDENCE of red water fever in cattle could be high this year as warm weather has helped ticks – the disease carrier – to flourish.

Somerset vet John Shaw warns that ticks – usually active in late spring to early summer and in the autumn – have been active since March and numbers are high.

"The disease occurs when ticks infect cattle with a single-celled parasite and is called red water fever because it causes the destruction of red blood cells which release red pigment into the urine," explains Mr Shaw.

Cattle at most risk are those in areas which the tick inhabits only in years when their numbers are particularly high. Areas close to rough ground with long grass and growing bracken, with a population of ground game carry the greatest risk.

"In these areas cattle will not have been able to develop immunity and the disease can be severe enough for the animals to die."

he says.

Independent vet consultant Tony Andrews says that treatment for the disease is effective but there is a minimum three-month witholding period after treatment.

Dr Andrews recommends examining cattle frequently during periods of tick activity in high risk areas.

He suggests checks for the presence of ticks and the symptoms which include red urine, fever and dullness.

For animals introduced to red water areas Dr Andrews suggests checks should be made twice a day.

Similarly he advises units which have bought in cattle from high risk areas to check stock carefully.