Bovine Tuberculosis (TB) is a chronic bacterial disease (primarily of cattle) caused by the microorganism, Mycobacterium bovis. The disease can affect other species, including humans and wildlife. Bovine TB is most often transmitted to humans by inhalation of aerosolized respiratory tract bacteria, ingestion of unpasteurized milk, and inoculation by contaminated instruments (such as knives). The disease can be spread from livestock to wildlife or wildlife to livestock via the fecal-oral route, ingestion of contaminated food, or though the respiratory tract. The APHIS Bovine TB Eradication Program has reduced TB in U.S. cattle; however, spillover into wildlife may maintain the microorganism in the environment and function as a source of re-infection for livestock.
Guidelines for Surveillance of Bovine Tuberculosis in Wildlife
Instructivo para la Vigilancia de la Tuberculosis Bovina en Vida Silvestre (Espanol)
The guidelines were developed by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), in collaboration with wildlife professionals with expertise in bovine TB. These recommendations incorporate the most recent scientific literature and are intended to serve as a starting point for developing and conducting surveillance for bovine TB in geographic areas where the presence of disease in wildlife is unknown. Interagency cooperation is strongly encouraged between State wildlife agencies, other State cooperators, stakeholders, and APHIS' Wildlife Services (WS), and Veterinary Services (VS) to develop an effective area-specific surveillance plan. Additionally, coordination with the National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) in Ames, IA, prior to sampling also is recommended to ensure timely testing of samples.
Wildlife Species of Concern for Mycobacterium bovis
Bovine tuberculosis in wildlife was first documented in the United States in white-tailed deer ( Odocoileus virginianus) in 1933. They continue to be the wildlife species of most concern because they are known to become infected and transmit bovine TB via the oral or respiratory route and are considered reservoirs in some areas. Other wildlife and feral species in North America where M. bovis has been detected include:
• Elk ( Cervus canadensis)
• Mule deer ( Odocoileus hemionus)
• Bison ( Bison bison)
• Raccoons ( Procyon lotor)
• Moose ( Alces alces)
• Coyotes ( Canis latrans)
• Opossums ( Didelphis virginiana)
• Feral cats ( Felis silvestris catus)
• Gray fox ( Urocyon cinereoargenteus)
• Black bears ( Ursus americanus)
• Feral swine ( Sus scrofa)
• Gray wolves ( Canis lupus)
• Red fox ( Vulpes vulpes)
• Bobcat ( Lynx rufus)
Wildlife Surveillance for TB in the United States
Active surveillance for TB in wildlife is currently being conducted only in Michigan and Minnesota, where the disease has been documented in white-tailed deer. However, surveillance in wildlife is often conducted in other areas of the United States following the detection of bovine TB in domestic livestock or captive cervids. These short-term surveillance programs are usually established to evaluate whether bovine TB is present in wildlife on or near infected premises.
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