Be on the lookout for Three Day Sickness

Bovine Ephemeral Fever (BEF), commonly known as Three Day Sickness, has been confirmed by laboratory testing in cattle in the Shoalhaven with likelihood to spread throughout the South East region. The virus, transmitted by mosquitoes, induces high fever and muscle/joint pain in affected cattle.

District Veterinarian Mark Doyle attributes the cases due to BEF being detected in the North Coast region in November 2023, spreading to the Hunter and progressing south. Recent wet weather also creates ideal conditions for an increase of mosquitoes.

“Once bitten by an insect carrying the virus, symptoms of Three Day Sickness progress rapidly,” Mark said.

“Aside from the fever, animals can appear depressed, lethargic, reluctant to eat and appear lame, may drool, shiver and be stiff.”

“Cattle that have been previously exposed will develop an immunity to the disease and not be affected.

“Some cattle, especially heavier cattle, bulls and pregnant breeders may go down and take several days to get back on their feet. They are more likely to need extra care to avoid secondary complications.

“The high fever can cause prolonged infertility in bulls and abortion in breeders.

“Anti-inflammatory medication is highly effective in reducing the fever and lessening the muscle and joint pain, improving recovery timeframes, and resulting in less weight loss.

“Given the similarity of symptoms with other diseases, veterinary diagnosis is recommended.”

Affected cattle should be provided with shade, water and feed and turned or lifted twice daily to help prevent secondary complications. A paddock free of steep hills or gullies is preferable.

Recently recovered cattle should not be sent to the abattoirs for several weeks to give the body a chance to heal and avoid the possibility of downgrades from any residual muscle damage. Where treatments have been given, any meat/milk withholding periods must be observed.

A vaccine is available, and producers can consider vaccinating stock. The vaccine requires two doses 2-4 weeks apart, if previously unvaccinated, and then a booster every 12 months for ongoing protection. Where the virus is already present, vaccinating now is unlikely to provide protection in time, however these are the first cases seen in the area this season, so there may still be time to vaccinate especially for high value and heavy animals.

More info on Three Day Sickness and managing cattle is available on the LLS website and NSW DPI website. For further advice contact your South East District Veterinarian by calling 1300 795 299 or your private veterinary practitioner.

Media Contact

For more information, please contact Chris Finley, email or 0477 193 761

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