Space shuttle material not involved in illness of three cows, two deer in Texas

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AUSTIN, Texas – Animal health officials investigating the reported illness in three cows in Cherokee County have found no evidence of a relationship between the illness and the Columbia space shuttle disaster.

Investigation. More than 600 pieces of shuttle material have been found in Cherokee County. The investigation by veterinarians from the Texas Animal Health Commission and NASA began Feb. 7, after three cows on separate premises exhibited swelling of the tongue and head.

Two of the cows died, and samples were collected for testing at the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory at College Station. Blood samples were taken from the remaining cow.

In addition, several pen-raised deer in the same area were reported to have stiff and swollen necks after the shuttle disaster.

“Autopsies on the two dead cows were suggestive of pneumonia, with bacterial complications. A third cow is recovering,” said James Lenarduzzi, acting executive director for the Texas Animal Health Commission, the state’s regulatory agency for livestock and poultry health.

The two deer recovered fully after being administered anti-inflammatory drugs. The deer may have sustained an injury when they were startled by the noise of the shuttle breakup, or when shuttle material fell into their pen.

Cause for concern. Concerns were raised because it was not clear if the animals might have developed an adverse health response after contact with shuttle material. Investigators were relieved to find that the cattle had not died from a hazardous chemical substance or an exotic disease.

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