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CONTRIBUTOR(S): John Tulloch, Louise Cox-O'Shea,

Ringworm

Ringworm

Ringworm is an extremely common, infectious fungal condition. Caused by Trichophyton verrucosum. It is spread from animal to animal (and to humans), by direct contact, or via spores in the animal’s environment (indirect contact).


Typical ringworm lesions
©Tim Potter

Introduction

T. verrucosum infects the superficial layers of the skin and hair shafts. The spores can survive for long periods in the environment, sometimes up to years. It can spread to other in-contact animals and man (zoonotic).

Although unsightly, ringworm usually has only minor impacts on animal health, growth and farm profits. Some studies have demonstrated negative effects on growth rates. May be economically significant if damaged hides are destined for the leather industry.

What are the signs of Ringworm?

Grey-white, circular, crusty patches with associated hair loss. Often the affected skin will be slightly raised. Patches can join together (coalesce) to produce more irregular shapes.

It usually affects around the eyes, face, back and ears of calves, and the legs and chest of cows. Severe cases can have widespread patches. Lesion starts in the centre and spreads outwards leading to the circular shape.

Usually more than one animal is affected.

What are the risk factors?

Younger animals are more frequently affected.

Higher incidence in winter.

More common in housed animals.

More common and more profound in poorly growing or diseased animals.

How is it diagnosed?

Ringworm can usually be diagnosed on clinical appearance alone and there is rarely a need to do further testing. 

If a definitive diagnosis is required, perhaps due to an atypical appearance, then the following options can be used. Microscopic examination of hair plucks taken from the periphery of the lesions. A hair sample may be taken and fungal culture performed either at your vet practice, or at an external laboratory. It can take 2 to 3 weeks to get a definitive diagnosis from fungal culture.

How is ringworm treated?

Ringworm usually resolves spontaneously, without intervention, in immunocompetent animals. However resolution can take up to 9 months. Severely affected animals should be examined in case any other disease is also affecting the individual.

For faster results your veterinarian may dispense a topical treatment. Topical medication cannot penetrate the scabs and crusts associated with ringworm. These crusts must be removed by brushing/ scraping. It is prudent to burn the removed crusts to reduce further environmental contamination. Several topical treatments are available and your veterinarian will take into account meat/ milk withdrawal considerations when choosing the most appropriate one.

Bovilis Ringvac (UK) is licensed for both prophylaxis and treatment of ringworm and as such your veterinarian may advise that the therapeutic dose of Bovilis Ringvac be administered to shorten the recovery time of infected cattle showing clinical signs.

How can it be prevented?

It is very difficult to eliminate ringworm from a farm, however, the following steps can help to reduce disease incidence:

  • Calves can be vaccinated from 2 weeks of age (against Trichophyton Verrucosum).
  • Increase exposure to sunlight. UV light damages the fungus and aids clinical cure.
  • Thorough cleaning and disinfection of housing between batches of animals.
  • Avoiding high stocking density.
  • Incineration of any removed crusts from ringworm lesions.
  • Close inspection of bought in stock and isolation of any affected animals.

Is there a zoonotic risk?

Gloves should be warn when handling affected animals as ringworm can affect people. 

Wash hands thoroughly after handling affected animal.

Change your clothes before entering the home, so as to prevent spread to family members. Immuno-suppressed people are particularly susceptible to ringworm. Ringworm infection in people results in itchy red lesions. If you think you may have ringworm then speak to your GP.

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Zoonotic diseases in the UK

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