Cryptosporidiosis can be a costly disease that livestock producers need to be vigilant of. This is according to Dr. Minnaar Lyell, a veterinarian and consultant at Elanco Animal Health.
“Cryptosporidium parvum is a microscopic parasite that gives rise to the protozoan disease cryptosporidiosis,” he adds. This disease usually occurs in newborn calves and lambs, resulting in acute diarrhoea. Though the organism can be found in older animals too, they are not likely to show any symptoms.
The source of infection
Young animals are usually infected when they come into contact with other animals that are infected, or the droppings of adult animals. Animal droppings contain millions of oocytes that are spread this way. These eggs are ingested by the young livestock who as a result become infected. Thus, cryptosporidiosis infiltrates the intestines and destroys the absorbent layer of cells of the intestinal tract. As a result, the intestines are unable to digest or absorb food.
The first signs of infection in the young animals are usually seen between two and five days after the initial infection. Young animals with suppressed immunity are more susceptible to infection as opposed to their strong and healthy counterparts.
Signs of cryptosporidiosis to look out for
The first sign of cryptosporidiosis to look out for is an anorexic or weak looking animal. Their feces will be a pale or yellow colour with a watery consistency and containing mucus.
Weight loss, fatigue and constant tiredness can also be observed in the animal. “Dehydration due to diarrhoea is one of the biggest causes of death among these lambs and calves,” says Lyell.
To keep biosecurity measures in check, the healthy animals need to be removed from the contaminated area and separated from the infected animals as soon as possible. Workers who assist with this process should also have their overalls, water boots and hands disinfected before leaving the infected area.
The sick animals should not be dehydrated under any circumstances and should get the right fluids. Young animals need to consume milk to ensure that they get the necessary vitamins and minerals they need to build up their immune systems.