Bovine tuberculosis identified in B.C. cow, but officials say no risk to humans

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A cow from a farm in British Columbia’s southern Interior has tested positive for bovine tuberculosis but the Canadian Food Inspection Agency says there is no risk to human health or the food supply.

Cows/Shutterstock

A statement from the agency’s chief veterinary officer says suspicious lesions were found on the organs of a mature beef cow sent to a slaughterhouse on Oct. 26.

The statement says no parts of the animal entered the food chain.

Tests confirmed bovine tuberculosis on Nov. 9, and the agency says officials are now trying to identify the specific strain and trace movements of the animal to track the potential spread of the disease.

Canada is considered officially free of bovine TB although the statement says isolated cases may occur, but it also says human cases of the disease are very rare.

Exposure can only occur through the passage of fluids from an animal to an open skin sore, extended close contact with an animal with active respiratory tuberculosis or by drinking unpasteurized milk from an infected animal.

“Affected producers and industry associations, as well as federal and provincial departments, are co-operating in the ongoing investigation,” the statement says.

“The common goal is to protect human health, protect the health of Canadian livestock and, in the process, maintain market access.”

Six cases of bovine TB were identified in cattle from a single Alberta farm in 2016, leading to tests of 34,000 animals from 145 farms.

But those tests showed the disease did not spread from the original farm and international shipments of Canadian beef were never interrupted.

The B.C. case should not affect Canada’s current international status in which all provinces are considered free of bovine tuberculosis, and the agency statement says this status supports international trade for Canada’s beef industry.

Investigation updates will be posted on the food inspection agency website as more information is available.