Heartwater is one of the most important diseases of livestock in Africa. This bacterial disease is a tick–borne illness characterized by fever, breathing difficulties, and weight loss, followed by neurologic symptoms. Infection often leads to death. Experimentally it has been demonstrated that white–tailed deer can be infected, and also act to carry the tick that transmits the disease; thus, heartwater has the potential to become prevalent in the United States. Etiology Heartwater results from infection by the bacteria Ehrlichia ruminantium (air-lick-EE-ah ROO-mi-NAN-tium) formerly known as Cowdria ruminantium (COW-dree-ah). Strains of E. ruminantium vary in their ability to cause disease. At least one strain seems to not affect cattle; however, all strains appear to affect sheep and goats. Species affected Cattle, sheep, goats, and wild buffalo are severely affected by heartwater, although in some native African breeds of sheep and goats, the symptoms are mild. Antelope, wildebeest, guinea fowl, leopard tortoises, and scrub hare can carry the bacteria with no signs of disease. E. ruminantium can also infect eland, springbok, white–tailed deer, ferrets, the striped mouse, the albino mouse, and the multimammate mouse. For more technical information, see the technical version of this fact sheet a
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