Two deer confirmed to have TB in northeastern Michigan

The state Department of Agriculture and Rural Development declared two areas in Presque Isle County at high-risk for bovine tuberculosis last week after the Michigan Department of Natural Resources confirmed two white tailed deer were found to be infected.

This comes from a release by agency obtained by Michigan Sportsman, which advises that all cattle and bison herds within 10-miles of the infected deer will be tested for bovine TB for the next six months to ensure that the disease has not spread.

“All impacted cattle owners will be privately contacted by MDARD and asked to schedule a test to avoid the inconvenience of a quarantine being placed on their farms during fair season or sales,” reads the statement.

What is it?

Bovine tuberculosis (Mycobacterium bovis) is a chronic bacterial disease of cattle. However, though it has been largely eradicated in cowherds, it has crossed over into deer in the northeastern portion of Michigan and northern Minnesota.

The problem is, most white tailed deer infected with TB look healthy on the outside. It is in field dressing that a sportsman will see the telltale signs in infection. These include yellow to tan, pea-sized nodules in the chest cavity or lungs and lymph nodes on the head and neck that can be swollen. DNR has some pretty graphic pictures published on the Emerging Diseases website that show what these lesions look like in deer. (Don’t eat before looking at them).

According to the CDC, hunters that dress deer in regions where TB is present have a slight risk of contracting the disease that can be hard to diagnose as it often is not symptomatic. Therefore, if you run across a deer that has these lesions, or otherwise come into contact with an animal who may have TB, you should talk to your healthcare provider about being screened for infection. This is usually done by a simple tuberculin skin test (TST).

Should you be worried?

Not only the DNR but also the Departments of Community Health, Ag Development, and DEQ are monitoring the spread of the disease in the Wolverine State closely. In fact, the state has been running a TB program since 1998.

According to the state, the primary route of transmission is the exchange of respiratory secretions between infected and uninfected animals, usually through nose-to-nose contact. However, food plots that have been worked over by an infected animal can become infested with bacteria left waiting for the next ruminant to come by. While they caution that the risk of humans catching bovine TB are, “extremely remote,” they do have concerns.

“At risk are Michigan’s deer herd and other wildlife species with their many social, ecological, and economic values. Also at risk are livestock industry, and, most importantly, the health of Michigan’s citizens,” reads a report from the state.

In 2012, the state tested 4716 free-ranging deer and only found 20 cases. Right at half of those infected were in Alcona county while Alpena (4), Montmorency (5), and Oscoda (1) made up the other half.

According to the release, a meeting will be held to discuss the TB program and the designation of the potential high-risk area on Thursday, Feb. 26 at 7 p.m. at the Presque Isle District Library, 181 East Erie Street, Rogers City MI  49779.

For more information on bovine TB in Michigan, visit: www.michigan.gov/emergingdiseases.

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