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The cattle fever tick, and the disease it carries, has the devastating potential to cripple the U.S. cattle industry if not contained.
It's been called the silent war, a constant vigil of unsung heroes, many of them riding the Texas-Mexico border by horseback keeping guard, others working in laboratories checking Rhipicephalus annulatus and R. microplus, or ticks, for Babesia bovis ( Babesia bigemina is also a concern.), a deadly cattle disease better known as Cattle Fever, or Bovine Babesiosis.
The tick, and the disease it carries, has the devastating potential to cripple the U.S. cattle industry if not contained, much as it did in 1906, the first year the disease was discovered in the continental United States. In the first decade of the 20th century, direct and indirect economic losses to Cattle Fever were estimated to be $130.5 million, or about $3 billion in today's economy.
While eradication efforts have been ongoing for over a century, infected cattle and other types of ungulates have been discovered infected with the tick from time to time, the most recent being in May and June this year (2014) in Cameron County in Deep South Texas. The continuing eradication program, including the inspection and detection of tick infestations, is once again proving to be not only useful, but also necessary to prevent a repeat of a devastating disease outbreak to the U.S. cattle industry.
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Two premises and three cattle herds have been quarantined by the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) and USDA-APHIS for the presence of Cattle Fever ticks in recent times, and officials have confirmed that African antelopes that populate South Texas pose an additional threat to spread the parasites. Consequently, federal authorities have announced a plan to reduce the population of these exotics in the suspect areas.