Bovine tuberculosis strain found in B.C. never before seen in Canada, U.S.

None of the 4 animals entered the food chain and there is no risk to human health.

Chief veterinarian says 4 cases identified in southern Interior farm

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has identified four cows with bovine tuberculosis on a farm in B.C.'s southern Interior. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Canada's chief veterinary officer says test results from a case of bovine tuberculosis found in a cow in B.C. last November show a strain not seen before in Canada or the United States.

Jaspinder Komal says this TB isn't connected to any cases previously detected in wild animals or domestic livestock.

Komal says the majority of the animals on a farm in B.C.'s southern Interior where a cow was first identified with bovine tuberculosis have been tested.

He says four confirmed cases of the disease have been found in the herd, including the cow first confirmed to have the disease when it was slaughtered last October.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says the animals did not enter the food chain and there was no risk to human health.

'Very low' risk to humans

Bovine TB can be transmitted to people, causing a condition similar to human tuberculosis, according to the CFIA. 

It says people can be infected by ingesting unpasteurized dairy products from affected animals, by inhaling the bacteria, or by direct contact through breaks in the skin. 

Those infected with bovine TB can be treated with antimicrobial drugs, but the CFIA considers the risk of infection in Canada to be "very low" due to the pasteurization of dairy products and surveillance programs.

The agency has traced the movements of animals that entered or left the infected herd in the past five years and movement controls have been placed on about 18,000 animals in B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan.

As the investigation continues, movement controls on the herds will fluctuate, Komal said.

Isolated cases

Canada is considered officially free of bovine TB, although the statement says isolated cases may occur.

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.

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.

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

Investigation updates and movement of herds will be posted on the food inspection agency website.