Adding to a growing sense of unease over mass animal die-offs that have greeted the arrival of 2011, the discovery of approximately 200 dead cows on a dairy farm in Wisconsin has caused some jittery theologians to proclaim that the end of the world may be at hand.
While tests are being conducted before an official cause of death is pronounced, the farmer who discovered the cows has a less dramatic explanation for what killed his livestock: infectious bovine rhinotracheitis.
Surge Desk rounds up a few facts about the disease that, unlike biblical prophecy, has been positively identified in a number of other mass bovine deaths.
1. The virus is highly contagious
Spread via secretions of the eye, nose and reproductive organs, IBR is all too easily spread among a herd of cattle. Oftentimes, after the disease is contracted, its symptoms go dormant and undetected, only to pop up when the population comes under stress of some kind.
2. The symptoms aren't pretty
Cows infected with IBR tend to have swollen female sexual organs and exhibit a thick discharge around the eyes, nose and mouth. In addition, they often are seen swishing their tails more often than animals not infected. The virus has been known to result in respiratory problems, abortion and brain infections.
3. There is no sure-fire treatment
While vaccines for IBR have been developed, no guaranteed treatment exists for the virus once it is contracted. The best way to prevent an outbreak is to have a herd vaccinated. According to the University of Reading, mortality rates from the virus "vary considerably."
More Surge Desk coverage of 2011 wildlife deaths:
Devil Crabs the Latest Mass Die-Off Victims
500 More Red-Winged Blackbirds Found Dead in Louisiana
Dead Birds in Arkansas and Other Bad Stuff HAARP Has Been Blamed For
Birds, Bees and Fish: Why Are So Many Creatures Dying in 2011?
5 Other Animal Die-Offs
Massive Fish Kill in the Chesapeake Bay; Is American Wildlife Cursed?
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