More FAQs: TB Infection and Testing

What is the latest concern with TB in Indiana?

In 2016, bovine TB was discovered on a beef cattle operation in Franklin County and in wildlife near the infected cattle operation.

Where did the TB come from?

The source of infection is under investigation. On the infected premises no direct links were found through cattle and captive cervid movements. The TB cases in Franklin and Dearborn Counties from 2008 to 2016 are the same strain suggesting that wildlife in the area are the source.

The investigative process (referred to as epidemiology) requires reviewing purchase, sale and breeding records for all cattle and cervid operations linked to the initially identified herds in some way, including purchases of animals made several years ago.

TB is a slow-growing disease, and the animals involved could have been exposed years ago. The possibility exists that the ultimate source for infected herds may never be definitively identified.

What species are susceptible to Bovine TB?

Most warm-blooded animals, as well as humans, can get the disease. Some species are less susceptible, including horses and sheep.

Are DNR and BOAH testing other species?

Every year since 2009, BOAH has coordinated with DNR to test hunter-harvested wild white-tailed deer near the farms in Southeastern Indiana where TB-positive animals were housed.

Is Indiana freezer beef safe to eat?

Yes. Beef processed at state or federally inspected facilities are evaluated for any signs of illness before slaughter. After slaughter, the carcass and internal organs are inspected for any signs of disease, such as tuberculosis, that would make the meat unacceptable for human consumption.

The cases of TB in cattle from Franklin and Dearborn counties were identified through routine inspection when cattle were sent to a slaughter plant. The information was relayed back to the Indiana State Board of Animal Health for follow up investigations. This finding indicates that the U.S. food safety system works and consumers can be confident in the meat they purchase.

How long would TB affected properties be under quarantine?

Herds considered exposed to TB remain under quarantine until all exposed animals are tested. Any herd in which a positive is found will remain under quarantine until the property has met all the requirements set forth by the USDA as part of the federal disease eradication program.

Is there a vaccine for TB?

No. There is currently no approved vaccine for use in animals.

Will the organism that causes TB live in the environment? Can it be tested?

Mycobacterium bovis, the bacteria that causes bovine TB, likes a moist, cool environment and can survive outside of a body for several days in ideal conditions. Water is not an environment that will sustain the bacteria. Sunlight and temperature extremes will kill the organism. Water run-off has never been shown to be a source of infection.

Is deer urine a risk to the spreading of TB?

No.  The bacterium is found in respiratory and digestive excretions of the animal. It is also found in the lesions or abscesses formed by the disease.

With bovine TB in the upper portion of the lower peninsula of Michigan for the past 20 years, why have BOAH and DNR not tested animals sooner?

BOAH and DNR have been very concerned about the potential for the spread of TB into the state of Indiana. That is why the two agencies have an ongoing public education effort to raise awareness of what TB looks like in deer. Information has consistently appeared in the Indiana Hunter and Trapper Guide, including guidance for hunters to call for reporting and requesting assistance. Most meat processing facilities, meat inspection staff members and taxidermists have been provided with color photo reference cards to help identify signs of TB, should they handle potentially infected carcasses. This passive surveillance system results in numerous hunter calls to BOAH each year and sampling of any suspect animals. Hunters statewide are encouraged to contact BOAH to report any unusual appearance of their harvested animals.

Indiana has had TB testing requirements for several years for all live cervids imported into the state or moved within the state. Breeding cattle imported into Indiana from high-risk areas require a negative TB test prior to entry. Dairy heifers 6 months of age and older and all dairy cows require a negative TB test prior to entry.

An important detail regarding the TB found in Southeastern Indiana:

Genetic testing shows the strain of TB discovered in Southeast Indiana is different from the strain found in Michigan.