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The current epidemiological status of bovine theileriosis in eastern Zambia

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Results of a longitudinal study conducted in the eastern province of Zambia from 1994 to 1997 indicate that it is doubtful whether a state of endemic stability of East Coast fever (ECF) can be reached in the near future. Even in endemic areas, the mortality of Theileria parva infections is still estimated above 50%. The main factors limiting progress towards endemic stability are high innate susceptibility of the Zebu cattle, the virulence of the parasite and the climate. The unimodal rainfall pattern results in restricted activity of Rhipicephalus appendiculatus instars and year-to-year variation in rainfall causes fluctuations in tick phenology and T. parva transmission. Adult tick activity invariably peaks during the rains and is associated with the highest ECF incidence. Nymphal transmission of T. parva to cattle appears to be less important. Second periods of activity of both adult and nymphal instars are pronounced only when the climate is suitable. These second waves of tick activity ensure a more continuous and efficient transmission of T. parva and also play a key role in the dynamics of prolonged outbreaks in epidemic areas. ECF control methods may have an important influence on ECF epidemiology. Immunizations as well as chemotherapy of clinical cases create a reservoir of virulent parasites in susceptible cattle, resulting in artificial endemic stability.

Keywords: Zambia; epidemiology; theileriosis

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Provincial Veterinary Office, Chipata, Zambia 2: Department of Animal Health, Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, Belgium

Publication date: 1999-09-01

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