No cause for alarm over liver fluke in carabaos

At least 20 carabaos in two barangays in the capital town of Virac have been infected with liver flukes, with the Municipal Agriculture Office immediately treating the cases which it described as “sporadic.”

An official told the Tribune that the parasites affected five carabaos in F. Tacorda Village and 15 more in Pajo Baguio, with several of them dying from the disease and buried by their owners.

The MAO was informed of the dead carabaos by Pajo Baguio barangay chairman Jaime de Leon just before they were buried.

One of the carcasses was opened by a LGU technician, who found the liver bearing the characteristic white spots indicating the presence of the parasites locally known as “bitok.”

The agriculture office sent a report on the findings to the Department of Agriculture regional office, which told the LGU to take immediate action.

Biologics, specifically albendazole, were procured by the LGU through emergency purchase and the medicines were administered to the sick ruminants.

Technicians are now going around barangays with sizeable populations of carabaos and treating possibly infected carabaos.

The disease caused by liver flukes, known as fasciolosis, is widespread among ruminants such as cows and carabaos and is a major constraint to livestock production due to reduced productivity and increased mortality.

A parasitic flatworm, Fasciola sp., is passed from one individual to another through aquatic snails that are intermediate hosts.

Records of the Bureau of Animal Industry show that it is fasciolosis is the most frequent animal disease in the Philippines by far, with more than 267,000 cases during the period from 1997 to 2004.

Three Bicol provinces – Masbate, Albay and Sorsogon – are in the top twenty provinces with highest predicted risk of Fasciolosis, according to researchers William Wint, David Bourn, and Jose Molina.

In the recent years, outbreaks in southern Philippines have been blamed on erratic weather conditions, such as the shift from dry to wet weather as among the risk factors affecting the spread of the disease.

Clinical signs of the disease in cattle showed it could eventually cause loss of weight, muscle atrophy, fatigue, weakness and significant loss of appetite, with the animal dying if left untreated.

Animals usually become infected by the parasites by consuming water or grass infested by snails carrying the fasciola eggs.

Liver flukes are traditionally controlled through various chemical agents to kill the parasites within the bovine’s gastrointestinal tracts. But  there has been resistance to chemical agents and there is also a growing concern over the use of anti-helminthics due to possible chemical contamination in meat produce and on the environment.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control, people usually become infected by eating raw watercress or other water plants contaminated with immature parasite larvae.

The young worms move through the intestinal wall, the abdominal cavity, and the liver tissue, into the bile ducts, where they develop into mature adult flukes that produce eggs, it stated.

Fasciola infection in humans is both treatable and preventable, the CDC said.

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