Rain raises tick threat
AUTHORITIES have repeated warnings the wet weather has brought an early start to the paralysis tick season – and that pet and livestock owners should be extra careful.
The Livestock Health and Pest Authority (LHPA) said the moist conditions had increased the activity of ticks and the threat they posed to livestock.
Mullumbimby vet Richard Gregory agrees people should be vigilant, but doesn’t believe the problem is any worse than normal.
“All tick seasons are bad, with a lot of pets dying from the paralysis variety. This year is no worse than usual,” he said.
Mr Gregory said between five and 10 per cent of cases presenting with paralysis ticks were fatal.
While adult livestock tend to be more immune to paralysis ticks, they could be fatal to miniature horses and calves.
Phil Kemsley, the North Coast LHPA vet at Casino, said one or two such ticks ‘could roll a calf’.
He said he had seen several stricken calves in recent weeks.
“Good producers know to keep their stock in open country, away from the blady grass that the ticks like,” he said.
Mr Kemsley said some farmers relied on chemical treatments, but over-spraying was ‘a dead loss’ when the weather was so wet.
Bush ticks present a different kind of danger to farmers.
Mr Gregory said a young bull had shown signs of anaemia that was eventually traced to a heavy ‘burden’ of ticks. The bull, aged about 18 months, had died.
Because most farmers were now diligent in treating their animals, and in organising the calf drop in autumn, his clinic did not come across a large number of cases of bush tick infestation, Mr Gregory said.
He said midges tended to be more of a problem, and the heavy rains meant a greater number of mosquitos. Both these flying insects could carry various viruses affecting stock, such as the ‘three-day sickness’, which can be fatal.
LHPA vet for Lismore, Matthew Ball, said cattle on the North Coast handled ticks reasonably well.
“It’s those coming from outside the area that often react the worst,” he said.
Ticks can also pose a serious threat to humans, causing paralysis, allergic reactions and even tick typhus.
A doctor at the Bangalow Medical Centre said she had seen about one person a week with tick bites this season.
However, the North Coast Area Health Service’s director of public health, Paul Corben, said the incidence of mosquito-borne diseases was down this calendar year.
Mr Ball is a vet, but he also had some advice for humans about mosquitoes.
“People ought to tip out containers of water lying around to kill the mosquito larvae, and cut back bush near their home,” he said.