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Cattle TB confirmed in Texas beef herd

Affected premises was identified through routine slaughter surveillance.

On Sept. 11, Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) officials confirmed bovine tuberculosis (TB) in a beef cattle herd in Sutton County in the Texas Hill Country of western Texas.

The affected premises was identified Sept. 3 as a result of routine slaughter surveillance, TAHC said. The premises has been quarantined and must meet TAHC’s requirements for testing and removal of infected animals. The commission said it is conducting an epidemiological investigation to determine the possible origin and to prevent potential disease spread.

“TAHC staff are working closely with the herd owner, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Texas beef industry to ensure that the disease is quickly contained and the quarantined premises can return to normal business practices as soon as possible,” Texas state veterinarian Dr. Andy Schwartz said.

Bovine TB is a contagious, chronic disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium bovis. Clinical signs are not visible in the early stages of an infection. However, during later stages of infection, clinical signs may include weight loss, anorexia, weakness, low-grade fever, pneumonia with a chronic, moist cough and enlarged or lesioned lymph nodes, TAHC said.

A variety of other species are susceptible to bovine TB, including elk, deer, bison, goats, swine, cats and, though rare, sheep and horses. Humans can also be infected with M. bovis TB through ingestion of unpasteurized dairy products like milk and cheese, TAHC said. People working in close proximity with infected cattle can also be at risk of exposure.

Tuberculosis has a long incubation period of months to years and was once the most prevalent infectious disease of cattle in the U.S. Since establishing the cooperative state and federal eradication program in 1917, the prevalence of bovine TB in cattle herds has been reduced significantly, with only occasional occurrences, TAHC said.

“Early bovine tuberculosis detection, paired with good animal traceability, is critical for effective disease response and eradication,” Texas state epidemiologist Dr. Susan Rollo said. “Due to robust state and federal cooperative slaughter surveillance programs and the diligent work by Texas’ accredited and regulatory veterinarians, we are able to detect the disease, mitigate its effects and protect animal and public health.”

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