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Cattle fever tick numbers on the rise in Texas

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Posted at 12:33 PM, May 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-22 13:33:32-04

COLLEGE STATION, TX — Texas A&M AgriLife Research and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service are working to help thwart the spread of cattle fever.

The Texas Animal Health Commission and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Cattle Fever Tick Eradication Program announced that cattle fever tick infestations have spread outside the permanent quarantine zone.

AgriLife experts last dealt with a large cattle fever tick infestation outbreak in 2017.

A million acres beyond the permanent quarantine zone is now quarantined due to cattle fever.

“At risk is the economy of the Texas cattle industry and the more than 400,000 cattle producers throughout the southern region of the U.S.,” said Pete Teel, Ph.D., AgriLife Research entomologist, College Station.

Cattle fever ticks, known scientifically as Rhipicephalus annulatus and Rhipicephalus microplus, can carry the microscopic parasites that cause bovine babesiosis or cattle fever.

These are the only two tick species that can transmit the disease. Once an animal is infected, these parasites attack red blood cells resulting in acute anemia, enlargement of the liver and spleen, and a high fever.

TAHC and USDA-CFTEP are currently working to determine the extent of the spread of the ticks and to trace the source.

So far, ticks have been found on cattle outside of the permanent quarantine zone in Cameron, Hidalgo, Jim Wells, Jim Hogg and Willacy counties.

There are now over a million acres quarantined outside of the permanent zone.

Horses, deer and exotic livestock may also host cattle fever ticks. Transportation of any of these hosts can spread cattle fever ticks.

Once the ticks are discovered on a location, it is quarantined. Once under quarantine, the cattle and other susceptible animals are prescribed a treatment program until the ticks can be eradicated from the area.

Anyone with questions or concerns may reach out to their local AgriLife Extension office. The TAMU TickApp for smartphones is also an informative tool.