Rare cattle disease points to winter weather stress

Rare cattle disease points to winter weather stress


Robert Stevens

Managing editor





Veterinarians are using cattle recently diagnosed with an uncommon disease in Sanpete County as a case in point illustrating the damage winter-weather stress can cause in a herd.

A statement released by the Sanpete Veterinary Clinic in Mt. Pleasant says the clinic recently diagnosed the first cases of Histophilus Somni, a disease associated with stress arising from transportation of cattle and harsh winter weather.

According to the clinic, 8-12-month-old calves came down with the acute neurologic disease, which was nonresponsive to antibiotics. The disease was fatal within 48 hours of the first clinical signs.

Dr. Barry Pittman, state veterinarian, says the outbreak should be a reminder to cattle producers in Sanpete County to be vigilant for signs of increased stress in their cattle herds.

“Whenever cattle get stressed, or under some burden, sometimes the condition takes over the immune system in the way a cold sore can surface in a human,” Pittman said. “Sometimes it can happen very rapidly, and this time it was fatal.”

The infection found in Sanpete County “was probably caused by stress in the herd due to the recent unrelenting weather events of continuous snow and rain and temperature fluctuations,” Pittman said.

The veterinarian said the disease poses no threat to human health. “It can spread among the heard with nose to nose contact,” he said. “The herd that was discovered with it was an isolated herd that really didn’t have contact with others. It is transferrable through saliva and feces.”

Dr. Pittman also says Utah sees 5-6 cases of the disease a year in beef and dairy cattle. It usually manifests in individual animals, or in 2-3 animals in a herd, for several weeks to a month, then resolves. The disease can arise with or without pneumonia being present at the same time.

“It is possible to vaccinate for it,” Pittman said. “It’s a herd health-management decision, and it’s really an individual decision, but the Sanpete Veterinarian Clinic recommended that all the cattle growers in their area vaccinate for the bacteria.”

When asked what a cattle herder should do if he thinks the bacteria is present in his herd,  Pittman said, “Call the local veterinarian. Have him come out and look at the herd and make some professional decisions about what is happening.”

Pittman said cattle producers should be well aware of the need for cattle to have access to food, water and shelter in adverse conditions.

“This is a just reminder to continue checking the herd more often, assessing the health of their animals, and consulting with their local veterinarians for possible treatment regimens and preventive measures, such as vaccines.”