The existence of heartwater on 3 islands of the Central Lesser Antilles and the presence of an efficient vector originating from Africa, Amblyomma variegatum, on most of the islands of this region constitute a serious threat for livestock on the American mainland. The disease can be introduced there either by infected animals or infected ticks. The most likely way is probably the transportation of domestic animals which are heavily infested by ticks. Due to the low rate of infection of ticks in endemic areas and the low rate of infestation of wild animals by ticks, the risk of transportation by migratory birds (among which the cattle egret is the most important) seems negligible compared with domestic animals, especially ruminants and dogs. The establishment and spread of the disease on the mainland could result from indigenous American Amblyomma species, of which at least 2, Amblyomma cajennense and, more especially, Amblyomma maculatum, are experimental vectors. The biological and ecological features of these ticks conform to some extent with the characteristics necessary for them to act as vectors. They are widespread and sufficiently well adapted to ruminants to ensure the continuation of the epidemiological cycle. Disease could evolve in wild life (deer) or, as seems more likely, in livestock, of which the population density is very high on most of the mainland. However, the estableshiment of the disease is more likely to occur if the well adapted vector of heartwater, Amblyomma variegatum, is introduced as well. This exotic species would find environmental conditions favourable for its survival and spread in most of the tropical and subtropical Western Hemisphere. Protection of the American mainland and the disease-free islands of the area must be based on strict control of domestic animal movement in the Caribbean, on the decrease of the vector population by tick control campaigns and, if possible, on the eradication of Amblyomma variegatum from the focus of heartwater on the islands.
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