Yesterday, New York State Department of Ag and Markets confirmed that the m. bovis strain of tuberculosis was found in a captive deer herd in Columbia County – southeast of Albany and near the Massachusetts border. Hunters and livestock producers are urged to take precautions since this TB strain can spread to other species, including humans.
Ag and Markets has been testing neighboring livestock herds. The Department of Environmental Conservation has been surveying the wild deer population. Neither agency has found signs of bovine TB in any animal outside of the affected captive deer herd. But the disease can be undetectable in live animals and easily overlooked in early stages in dead animals.
Risk of TB transmission is a serious threat to the health of both animals and humans. Infected animals may at first look normal. But as the disease progresses, they may become thin and weak. Infected deer are particularly hard to detect visually, and may appear outwardly normal for several years after being infected. To date, DEC biologists have found no legions consistent with bovine TB in wild deer tested from the area.
Hunter safety urged
Hunters or others who handle deer are encouraged to take basic precautions, such as wearing protective gloves when field dressing deer and minimizing exposure to blood and other body fluids. Hunters should be alert to abscesses in the lungs and rib cage, intestines, liver or stomach. Meat from animals with abscesses should not be eaten. Anyone seeing these signs or other unusual lesions in deer should contact DEC at 518-402-8965.
With similar outbreaks in 1992 and 1995, the disease was successfully contained and eliminated by depopulating infected captive deer herds. That minimized the risks to domestic livestock populations. Livestock owners concerned about TB are welcome to call the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets at 518-457-3502.