How farmers can prevent and treat ringworm in cattle

22 Jan 2021

Ringworm is a very common and highly transmissible skin infection passed both from cattle to cattle and from cattle to humans (zoonotic) which is caused by the spore-forming fungus (mould) called Trichophyton verrucosum. Note despite its name it is not caused by a worm.

According to Meatco’s Senior Manager: Safety Health Environment and Quality Assurance and Acting Okapuka Feedlot Veterinarian, Dr Adrianatus Maseke, the fungus normally survives in the environment in soil or vegetation from where it infects the animal’s skin. It may also be introduced by infected cattle or contaminated utensils such as burdizo’s, needles, brushes, razors etc.

The infected skin develops circular (rings) of Alopecia or hair loss and scabbing on the infected area. The affected skin becomes slightly thickened, crusty, flaky, and greyish in colour with intense itching, resulting in weight and condition loss.  It may also lead to secondary bacterial infection resulting in pustules and abscesses which ultimately cause severe damage to the hide. In most cases lesions may disappear spontaneously.

Where infection is severe treatment may be required. Treatment is aimed at isolating affected animals, removing crust and scabs, and washing the wounds with antifungal agents such as Enilconazole or betadine. The recovered crust and scabs should be burned to avoid further transmission. Cattle must be removed from dump, moist areas during the period of recovery. Treatment must be done 3 times a day, every day until animals heal. Vitamin D and E supplements can be added to improve skin health and antibiotics may be added treat secondary bacterial infections.

Prevention is directed to cleaning and disinfecting the environment such as the kraals and utensils using Betadine or normal household bleach. 

Producers must report this disease to the nearest State Veterinary Office.

As ringworm is a zoonotic disease and may be transmitted to producers and animal handlers, extreme precaution must be taken when handling infected animals such as wearing gloves, overalls and washing contaminated clothes in hot water and bleach immediately after use.