New York finds tuberculosis in captive fallow deer

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ALBANY, N.Y. — The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets reported the finding of tuberculosis in a captive red and fallow deer herd in Columbia County.

The finding of tuberculosis is the result of routine disease testing conducted by the department.

While commonly thought of as a lung disease, tuberculosis may affect nearly any organ in livestock.

Animals infected with the disease may at first look normal, but as the disease progresses, they may become thin and weak.

Routine testing

During routine testing, one fallow deer in the herd had a positive reaction to a tuberculosis screening test and was subsequently euthanized.

A post mortem examination, along with laboratory testing at the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, confirmed the state’s diagnosis.

Further testing is underway to identify the specific strain of tuberculosis affecting the animal.

The presence of the disease in this captive deer herd could threaten the health of wild deer populations, as well as the health of nearby domestic animal populations.

Thus, the affected herd has been quarantined and animals on nearby farms will undergo testing to ensure that the disease has been contained to this one herd.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation will be looking for signs of tuberculosis in wild deer in and around Columbia County.

Department biologists intend to examine and collect samples from both road-killed and hunter-harvested deer to be sure the infection has not spread to New York’s wild deer population.

Precautions

Hunters or others who handle deer should take basic precautions, such as wearing protective gloves when field dressing deer and minimizing exposure to blood and other body fluids.

When field dressing deer, hunters should be alert to abscesses in the lungs and rib cage, intestines, liver or stomach.

Anyone seeing these signs or other unusual lesions in deer should contact the Department of Environmental Conservation at 518-402-8965.

The New York State Department of Health is also monitoring the situation.

While strains of tuberculosis affecting deer can be transmitted to humans, there is no evidence of such in this situation.

Strategy

Due to the limitations of current tuberculosis tests, depopulation of animals in infected herds is the only long-term strategy to contain the disease.

In both 1992 and 1995, the disease was successfully contained and eliminated in this manner, minimizing the impact of these isolated outbreaks to domestic livestock populations.

Livestock owners concerned about tuberculosis may call the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets at 518-457-3502.

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