After a short respite, cattle farmers in Germany confront yet another disease that is threatening to destroy their herds.
A new outbreak of Bovine Herpesvirus 1 (BHV-1) has been detected in cattle farms in Bavaria, Germany. Although the virus was officially considered eliminated from the region in October 2011, it has resurfaced in one bull farm and two breeding and dairy farms in Donau-Ries county. Almost all animals tested positive for herpes.
In an effort to stem the outbreak before it spreads, the entire herd in all three farms had to be culled: approximately 360 cows and bulls. Additionally, Bavarian farmers are urged to discontinue all cattle purchases for the time being. If the virus continues to survive, a new strategy that may include vaccinations needs to be designed, said Dr. Ekhard Sälze, Veterinary Director of the Donau-Ries county office.
Officials do not yet know how the virus reemerged in the previously disease-free region.
Infections caused by BHV-1 are widespread in cattle herds. There are three subtypes of BHV-1 infections: a respiratory form, a genital form, and an encephalitic form. The respiratory subtype is the most common and, although it is not life threatening, the breakdown of the cow’s immune system predisposes the animal to death by secondary bacterial pneumonia. Clinical symptoms may include high fever, anorexia, coughing, excessive salivation, nasal discharge and lesions, and conjunctivitis. Severity of symptoms depends on the presence of the secondary infection. If absent, infected cattle usually recover within 4 to 5 days after onset of symptoms.
Breeding cattle may also suffer from genital infection, which can cause abortion. Latent BHV-1 infection is common, and although these cattle show no symptoms, they remain contagious. BHV-1 is not transmissible to humans.
Veterinarians may treat infected cattle with antimicrobial therapy to prevent secondary bacterial pneumonia. Additionally, immunizations provide adequate protection against the clinical form of the disease.
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