Vibriosis has been reported in different areas of New Mexico. This disease is caused by a bacterium, but it is not the same organism that causes the infection in cattle. Ewes afflicted with vibriosis abort in late pregnancy or occasionally give birth to dead or small, weak lambs. Ewes rarely show symptoms before aborting. After abortion, there is usually a brown, foul-smelling vaginal discharge. Aborting ewes usually recover completely without treatment and are immune to the effects of the disease in following years. The source of the infection is not completely understood, though birds and rodents could be carriers.
During and before lambing, sanitation is very important. If a ewe aborts, separate her from the flock and destroy all the placenta and aborted material. Commercial vaccines are available. Administer the vaccine prior to the breeding season. Antibiotics have been beneficial in controlling vibriosis outbreaks, but early diagnosis is essential. Feeding antibiotics for the last six weeks of pregnancy has been shown to significantly reduce abortions. Two consecutive daily injections of penicillin dihydrostreptomycin, administered five to six days after experimental infection, may reduce the number of abortions.
Vibrio is an abortion causing infection with various species of Campylobacter. This disease spreads when sheep eat something that is contaminated with the bacteria which can be found in membranes, uterine fluids, and aborted fetuses. Symptoms will present themselves differently depending on the stage of pregnancy ewes are infected. Early pregnancy exposure results in reabsorption of the fetus and ewes coming up open. Mid pregnancy infections cause abortions about 10 – 20 days after the initial infection. Late pregnancy presents as stillbirths and weak lambs.
Features of Vibrio in Sheep
- discharge from vulva for a few days, then
- sudden abortion in late pregnancy causing the ewe little trouble
- rapidly increasing abortion rate over several days (average outbreak is 20% of the flock, but varies from 5–50%, with rates of up to 70% reported)
- birth of dead or weak lambs
- brownish discharge from the vulva for up to two weeks following abortion (this discharge contains millions of the infectious bacteria)
- up to 5% may die from blood poisoning following infection of the uterus.
It is rare for a recovered flock to have repeat outbreaks in successive years.
- about 50% die in the uterus
- liver lesions present in about 20% of aborted lambs (multiple 1‑20 millimetre, yellowish circular areas)
- blood-tinged fluid in the cavities of the chest, abdomen and around the heart
- oedema (swelling) of subcutaneous tissues
- swollen placental membranes (afterbirth) with soft, pale orange cotyledons (buttons), instead of the normal red colour.
There is no practical treatment to prevent campylobacter abortion. Once abortions commence, the placentas of infected ewes have already suffered damage.
Ewes that have aborted may be treated with antibiotics to reduce losses from uterine infection (metritis) or systemic infection.
- Isolate aborting ewes.
- Collect and burn aborted lambs and placental membranes. Humans can become infected so it is important to wear disposable gloves and cover cuts and abrasions before handling aborted or potentially contaminated material. Always wash hands and change and wash clothes and disinfect shoes and equipment after handling contaminated material.
- Prevent contamination of feed and water by vaginal discharges and aborted lambs. This includes providing water troughs at dams or soaks.
- Do not sell ewes from an infected flock for breeding as some may be carrier animals.
- Once infected, flocks usually develop good immunity.
Prices of Vibrio Vaccine Sheep
$9.60 – $35.22