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Bovine Tuberculosis

About... Bovine Tuberculosis and Whitetail Deer

What is bovine tuberculosis?

Bovine tuberculosis is a bacterial disease of cattle that can infect humans other domestic animals and some wildlife. It has been found in whitetail deer in Northeast Michigan. The bacteria Mycobacterium bovis causes the disease. This bacterium is closely related to the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis associated with human tuberculosis. For more information, please see Indiana State Board of Animal Health Bovine TB: http://www.in.gov/boah/2396.htm

How can humans get bovine tuberculosis?

There are three ways humans can get bovine tuberculosis:

  • by breathing or inhaling air contaminated with the bacteria after an infected animal or infected person coughs or sneezes very close by. It is very unlikely that an individual would contract tuberculosis from a deer by this method.
  • by drinking unpasteurized milk from an infected cow or eating raw or undercooked meat from an infected animal. The consumption of undercooked or raw meat poses the biggest threat for contracting bovine tuberculosis from venison.
  • by handling infected meat in the dressing and processing of animal carcasses, especially if hands aren't washed carefully prior to consuming food. There is very little risk that an individual would contract bovine tuberculosis by this method

How can I prevent getting infected with bovine TB from a deer?

Animals that aren't healthy or have lesions suggestive of tuberculosis in the lungs, body organs, bones, or on the interior surface of the rib cage should not be consumed for food. Because tuberculosis lesions may not always be visible, all venison should be thoroughly cooked until there is no pink areas remaining and all juices run clear. Venison should not be smoked, made into jerky, or sausage that will not be thoroughly cooked. Fully cooking venison will kill any tuberculosis bacteria present as well as any other disease causing bacteria.

After field dressing or handling any carcass or other raw meat, hands should be washed with soap and water. Hand washing removes both the blood and disease causing bacteria including tuberculosis. This practice should always be followed, even if the animal appears healthy.

What are the symptoms of bovine tuberculosis in people?

The symptoms generally relate to the transmission method and are similar to the tuberculosis of people. The symptoms related to TB include:

  • cough
  • fever
  • night sweats
  • fatigue
  • weight loss, without dieting

How can bovine tuberculosis be diagnosed in humans?

A TB skin test can identify if you have been infected.

How is bovine tuberculosis treated?

With prescription drugs used to treat tuberculosis caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis.