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Bovine TBC can be transferred to humans through raw milk

Bovine TBC can be transferred to humans through raw milk

The authorities are concerned about the spread of cattle TBC in the Allgäu
02.07.2013

Germany has long been considered to be free from cattle tuberculosis (cattle TBC), but after several infected animals have been discovered in the Allgäu, there is growing concern that it will spread again. Since people can also be infected with raw cattle TBC, the authorities are particularly sensitized. Comprehensive security measures have been taken, farms blocked if suspected and potentially infected animals killed.

According to the farmers, the official procedure in the fight against the cattle TBC is at least partially exaggerated. Here, healthy animals would be killed without a legal basis and farm closures would be carried out to protect the financial interests of the dairies, which would otherwise have to take the milk, complained Johannes Wachinger, spokesman for the "Interest Group for Healthy Animals" (IttG). Allegations that have met with little understanding at the Oberallgäu district office, especially since, according to the district's announcement, "an urgent regulation from the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection was put into force on the initiative of District Administrator Kaiser", which "for the next six months the applicable cattle TBC Regulation "changes. The deadlines for the farms have been significantly reduced and the cattle with unclear test results no longer have to be culled, but can be tested again after 42 days.

Bovine TBC can also be transmitted to humans. Tuberculosis can occur as a bacterial infectious disease in both humans and animals. Although "human" tuberculosis is largely independent of animals, which means that humans usually become infected from humans, cattle TBC can also be transmitted to humans. The Mykobacterium tuberculosis pathogen is responsible for human tuberculosis, and the Mykobacterium Caprae pathogen for cattle TBC. The latter is "less infectious in humans than in cattle", which is why the risk of infection is very low, reports the district of Oberallgäu. However, “contagion is not completely excluded.” So far, however, no case of proven infection of people with bovine tuberculosis has been found in the Oberallgäu district. There are “currently two cases in which immunoassays have shown that farmers from the Upper Allgäu have come into contact with some mycobacteria at some point in their lives - but that does not mean that there is a connection with the current cattle TB events exists ", the official position. As a precaution, the affected person should be treated with relevant antibiotics.

Stocks of more than 1,300 farms checked for cattle TBC The situation is particularly difficult for dairy farmers in the Allgäu, since their milk is mostly processed into raw milk products such as the Allgäu Emmentaler or the Allgäu mountain cheese and the cattle TBC could theoretically be transferred in this way . In the interests of consumers, the now reintroduced screening of cattle herds makes perfect sense. “Because infected animals can only be detected early if they are examined at all - without being dependent on random finds during slaughter,” reports the Oberallgäu district. According to official information, all 2,043 cattle-keeping businesses in the district and in the city of Kempten are to be checked by the end of the year. So far, 1,356 cattle-keeping businesses have been examined, of which 1,335 are “recognized free of tuberculosis”, the district continues. 21 farms are currently still closed due to suspected infection with bovine tuberculosis.

Possible tuberculosis infections from red deer According to the Oberallgäu district, 52,136 of the approximately 90,000 cattle in the Oberallgäu have now been tested and 785 animals had to be killed. Almost always only individual animals were affected, "which suggests that the animals are detected at an early stage of infection on the one hand and that they have become infected outside of the company on the other", the official announcement. Deer is considered a possible source of infection, as many dairy farmers graze their cattle in the summer in the 600 Upper Allgäu Alps. During the alpine season, the cattle come into contact with the deer excrement and at least partially use the same feeding points. Deer also gratefully accepts salt licks. In this way, pathogens can easily pass from the wild population to the dairy herd. "Of the 479 animals examined in the 2012 hunting year, 21 were infected with red deer, and that with the same pathogen as with cattle (Mykobacterium caprae)," reports the district of Oberallgäu.

Precautions to avoid TBC transmission According to the district, the alpine season can take place as usual, but the farmers should follow some recommendations for alpine pasture operations. For example, "free feeding on alpine pastures should be avoided as a precaution, grazing of red deer gates is not recommended" and "salt feeding should be done in such a way that not both animals can achieve the same feeding at the same time." Farmers should also be aware of the fact that "especially in shady locations without direct sunlight (UV), the pathogen can hold on to the remains of feces or feed for longer," according to the Oberallgäu district. It was important to minimize the possibilities for contact transmission between hoofed game and the cattle as far as possible.

Pasteurized milk can be consumed without hesitation The milk from stocks with cattle TBC "can be recycled after previous pasteurization" and the "food can be freely traded on the European market", the Oberallgäu district explains in its press release. If raw milk is sold directly from the farm, the farmer is generally legally obliged to indicate by means of a clearly visible sign that the milk must be boiled before being consumed. For the production of raw milk cheese, which is widespread in the Allgäu region, only "milk from stocks that are officially tuberculosis-free may be used," the official announcement. For Allgäu farmers, the spread of cattle TBC could therefore quickly become a threat to their existence. (fp)

Photo credit: uschi Dreiucker / pixelio.de

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