Nurse and dog tested positive for Bovine TB
A veterinary nurse and her pet dog have both tested positive for the cattle form of tuberculosis.
Bovine Tuberculosis is a serious respiratory disease which affects thousands of cattle yearly, resulting in the culling of high numbers of the animal.
The unnamed nurse, from Cornwall, is believed to have been testing cattle for bovine TB when she herself became infected. There is still uncertainty as to whether she passed the bacteria onto her dog, or vice versa. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) have confirmed the case and an investigation is currently underway. The findings should be available later in the year.
‘We are aware of a case of M. bovis infection in a human patient in South West England, and the patient's dog. The patient is receiving treatment,’ said a Defra spokesman on Monday.
‘Bovine TB is a recognised zoonotic (can be transmitted from humans to animals) agent and that is precisely why we have a compulsory bovine TB control programme in cattle,’ added the spokesman.
Although rare, Mycobacterium Bovis, to give it its scientific name, can occasionally be transmitted to humans via milk. However, the process of pasteurisation eliminates any bacteria found in infected milk.
National Farmers’ Union South West representative Ian Johnson has urged the public not to panic.
‘People should not be alarmed in terms of their own safety,’ he said. ‘There is routine pasteurisation of milk, and there is no food chain-related transmission.
‘The incidence of humans contracting bovine TB is incredibly small. We must assume she must have contracted it taking care of an infected animal,’ added Mr. Johnson with reference to the infected veterinary nurse.
Many farmers believe that badgers are to blame for the spread of bovine TB among cattle. They claim that the bacteria is ingested by cattle grazing on grass which has been urinated on by the woodland creatures. Earlier this year, Rural Affairs Secretary Hilary Benn faced criticism after ruling out a proposed random badger culling policy. Farmers had lobbied for the bill to be passed as a way of controlling the spread of tuberculosis in cattle herds.
Conservationists disagree with the farming community, believing that the disease is spread between the cattle themselves and therefore badger culling would be hugely ineffectual in the fight against bovine TB.
The victim’s daughter has also been tested and is receiving precautionary treatment.