Bovine ephemeral fever

Also known as three-day sickness


Bovine ephemeral fever (BEF) is a viral disease of cattle and buffalo. Typically, affected animals are only sick for a few days, giving rise to the common name of three-day sickness.

Clinically there is a sudden onset of fever (up to 41ºC), often returning to normal within 36 hours.  Animals may stop eating and drinking and become depressed. Nasal discharge, drooling and watery eyes may be seen. Affected animals may shiver, become very stiff with a shifting lameness and are reluctant to move. Some animals, particularly the heavier ones, lie down and refuse to move. In the vast majority of cases the disease runs a short course, followed by rapid and complete recovery.

BEF is an example of an arbovirus because it is spread by biting insects. The most likely insects to transmit the virus in NSW are mosquitoes, such as Culex annulirostris but there may be other vectors that have not been identified.

Diagnosis and tests available


The diagnosis of BEF is made on the presence of clinical signs in conjunction with PCR and/or serological testing.

Tests available


Sample(s) required

Days of the week test is conducted

Turnaround time1

Bovine ephemeral fever virus antibody ELISA

Clotted blood (red top tube)

Batch tested weekly

Up to 1 week

Bovine ephemeral fever virus real-time PCR

EDTA blood (purple top tube)

According to demand

2-3 working days

Bovine ephemeral fever VNT

Clotted blood (red top tube)

Batch tested on Thursday

1-2 weeks

1 Turnaround times are provided as a guide only. For specific information about your submission please contact Customer Service.

Specimen requirements

Blood (without anti-coagulant)

  • 10 ml of blood collected in a plain red top tube
    • Submit chilled
    • Collect paired sera 2-3 weeks apart for ELISA or VNT testing

Blood (with anti-coagulant)

  • 10 ml of blood collected in a purple top tube. For PCR testing the sample should be collected within three days of onset of clinical signs for optimal chance of virus detection
    • Submit chilled