NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The state veterinarian is finding cases of a lifelong parasite called “Theileria orientalis” in a herd of cattle in Middle Tennessee.

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture found an affected herd in Maury County that shows signs of illness and lethargy, and despite veterinary attention and antibiotic treatments, some animals have died.

Theileria is a tickborne parasite that infects red and white blood cells and causes severe anemia in cattle, according to the news release.

Once an animal is affected, it carries the parasite for life.

“The Asian longhorned tick is a common vector for this illness,” State Veterinarian Dr. Samantha Beaty said. “Although we have not yet confirmed the presence of ALT in Maury County, we know it’s already taken hold in several other Tennessee counties and will continue to spread. Cattle producers should take steps to protect their herds.”

Anyone who owns cattle can minimize the risk of their cattle getting Theileria by keeping them from wooded areas and keeping the grass short. The Tennessee Department of Agriculture also recommends that people check their cattle for ticks with ear tags, pours, back rubbers and any other additional pesticide killer.

Humans cannot get Theileria through direct contact with an affected animal. The meat from an affected cattle was also deemed safe as long as it’s cooked at the appropriate temperature.

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