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North Dakota investigates bovine TB case

Strain not previously identified in U.S. but is similar to cases found in Mexico.

The North Dakota Department of Agriculture announced that it is investigating a beef herd in Sargent County after bovine tuberculosis (TB) was identified.

“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,” North Dakota state veterinarian Dr. Susan Keller said. “The National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, confirmed the TB diagnosis in the cows.”

The herd was subsequently tested by state and federal veterinarians, and five additional cows have been confirmed to be affected. Additional testing is ongoing.

Sargent County is in southeastern North Dakota along the border with South Dakota.

According to the North Dakota Department of Agriculture, this bovine TB strain has not been previously identified in the U.S. and is most similar to cases that have been identified in cattle in Mexico.

TB is a zoonotic disease and can be transmitted from animals to humans and from 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.”

No other cattle herds have direct contact with this herd, the announcement said. Animals that test negative for the disease may move directly to slaughter, but other movements are not allowed. Meat from animals that pass inspection is safe for consumption.

Keller said the bovine TB eradication program is a state/federal cooperative program and that the North Dakota Department of Agriculture and State Board of Animal Health typically work on disease responses with the Veterinary Services group of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service. Due to the federal government shutdown, federal funding and field staff are currently limited in their ability to assist, she added.

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