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Enzootic bovine leukosis

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Enzootic Bovine Leukosis (EBL) is a transmissible disease of cattle caused by a virus.

It can be transmitted both vertically, mother to calf, and horizontally, cow to cow; causing leukaemia and multiple tumours.

It is an Office International des Epizooties (OIE) List "B" disease. The first confirmed case in British cattle was in 1978 and the last was in 1996. EBL is a notifiable disease, but it has been eradicated in Great Britain. Great Britain was granted EBL-free status by the European Union (EU) Commission in July 1999. The disease is not transmissible to humans.

Signs of disease

Clinical signs are usually apparent in cattle between 4 and 8 years of age and are only rarely seen in animals under 2 years old. In the live animal the disease is characterised by chronic ill health, progressive loss of condition, weakness, anaemia and anorexia, attributable to tumorous infiltration of various organs throughout the body. Tumour formation in the abomasum, intestines, liver and abdominal lymph nodes is common with consequential digestive upset. Clinically affected animals will lose condition and eventually die. Treatment for EBL of cattle is not permitted. All infected cattle and contacts which have been exposed to infection must be slaughtered.

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Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) Enzootic Bovine Leukosis (EBL) (external link).