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Three day sickness / Bovine ephemeral fever

Three day sickness, or bovine ephemeral fever (BEF), is a viral disease of cattle that is spread by mosquitoes and biting midges. It occurs in northern Australia and along the eastern seaboard south to the NSW-VIC border. It is called three day sickness because the clinical signs of the disease usually last for three days.

Conditions when three day sickness is likely to occur

  • young stock are more commonly affected because infection provides life-long immunity
  • wetter northern regions. It is more sporadic in southern cooler regions
  • following big wet seasons, especially if it follows several dry years. Under these conditions there are more transmitting insects, and a higher proportion of older animals will become infected.

Identification and diagnosis

Diagnosis of three day sickness will require assistance from a veterinarian.

Clinical signs that would lead you to suspect three day sickness include the following:

  • depression
  • lameness, muscle stiffness, shivering, twitching, droopy ears
  • drooling saliva, watery eyes, runny nose
  • recumbency
  • reduced water and food intake
  • abortion
  • heavier and older animals are more severely affected because long periods of recumbency leads to muscle damage.


Prevention of three day sickness relies largely on vaccination. When vaccinating, follow the directions on the vaccine label.