Rare Strain of Bovine Tuberculosis Found in North Dakota Beef Herd

Officials have confirmed a first case of a rare strain of bovine tuberculosis in the U.S. after seven cows in North Dakota tested positive for the disease. ( North Dakota State University Extension )

An investigation is underway by state veterinarians in North Dakota after a rare strain of bovine tuberculosis (TB) was identified in a beef cow herd.

“In late 2018, we were notified that two adult beef cows originating from the herd tested positive for Mycobacterium bovis at out-of-state slaughter plants,” State Veterinarian Dr. Susan Keller says. “The National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, confirmed the TB diagnosis in the cows.”

The herd in Sargent County was later tested by state and federal veterinarians. Five more cows were found to have confirmed TB cases. There are more tests being conducted.

According to officials, it was the first time this strain of TB had been found in the U.S. The type of TB is similar to cases identified in Mexican cattle.

The zoonotic disease can be transmitted from animals to humans and humans to animals.

“An epidemiologic investigation is now underway, and further testing will be done to determine the source of the disease and to prevent its spread,” Keller said. “The herd owners are fully cooperating in the investigation.”

The herd had no contact with another cattle.

Movement of the cattle that tested negative in the herd is not being allowed, except for slaughter. Meat that passes inspection would then be safe for consumption.

Keller adds that the bovine TB eradication program is a cooperative effort between state and federal agencies. The North Dakota Department of Agriculture and State Board of Animal Health usually works with USDA-APHIS Veterinary Services on disease responses. However, because of the government shutdown there was limited funding and federal staff to assist in the process.

 
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