Bovine tuberculosis is a progressive wasting disease. It affects mainly
cattle but also sheep, goats, pigs and other animals. People who get
bovine TB have to take strong antibiotics for up to nine months to cure
People can get sick from infected cows by drinking milk that has not
been heated to kill germs. Another risk is eating meat that has not
been cooked to seventy-four degrees Celsius. If an infected animal is
processed, cutting through lung or lymph tissue can spread the M. bovis
bacteria to other parts of the meat.
Bovine TB is a major problem in parts of Africa. Farmers in Canada and
Britain have also lost many cattle in recent years. In Britain, debate
continues about whether badgers pass TB to other animals.
Infected cows might lose weight and develop a cough. The bacteria can
spread from the sudden expulsion of air from the lungs. Or infected
animals can appear healthy. Then, when they give birth,their milk can
pass the infection to their young.
In the early twentieth century, bovine TB probably killed more animals
in the United States than all other diseases combined. To control it,
the government launched a successful testing program.
animal doctors ordered the destruction of about four million cattle
between nineteen seventeen and nineteen forty.
The American state of Michigan has been fighting tuberculosis in
cattle. Experts identified wild deer as the source of infection. The
neighboring state of Minnesota and the western state of California have
also had to deal with TB in cattle and deer.
Cows and wild deer can infect each other -- for example, if they share
cattle feed left in fields during winter. Possible solutions might
include building fences or leaving smaller amounts of hay.
Experts say the most effective form of control is to destroy cattle
herds that have been exposed to bovine tuberculosis. This prevents any
chance that infected cows might be moved to another farm.
In April, the United States Department of Agriculture announced the
availability of nearly seventeen million dollars in emergency
assistance. The Department said the money is meant for programs to
fight bovine TB in California, Michigan and Minnesota.
The states are to use the money to destroy cattle herds shown to have
tuberculosis. The aid could also be used to study the affected groups
and identify the cause of infection.
Listen to audio for more details.