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Wednesday, March 16, 2011


A ProMED-mail post

ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases

Date: Mon 14 Mar 2011
Source: KRGV [edited]

Disease forces government to slaughter rancher's cattle
A Starr County rancher is without his herd of cattle. The government
ordered them sold and slaughtered to keep a disease from spreading to
other cattle or people.

Of the 38 head of cattle, 8 tested positive for bovine brucellosis.
It's a potentially deadly disease that took the government about 80
years to get rid of. It came back. This time, they weren't taking any chances.

Silence fills the air on this Starr County ranch. The corrals sit
empty, no bulls, cows, or calves. All of the rancher's livestock are
gone, slaughtered by order of the Texas Animal Health Commission.

"All the cattle, even the ones that tested negative. The explanation
they gave me is that since they were offspring from the other cattle
and the bull, they had to destroy all of them," said the Starr County rancher.

The state sent a letter to the rancher after part of their herd was
tested for the disease in January [2011]. Veterinarians claimed
several of the cows were infected with bovine brucellosis. It's the
1st confirmed case in more than 5 years.

The rare bacterial infection causes cows to abort their fetus. It's a
meat livestock producer's nightmare.

Veterinarian Jack Valerius says brucellosis spreads through birth
fluids and milk.

"We just don't want this to be present and begin to expand without
knowing where it is and getting rid of it because there's been a lot
of effort and a lot of money spent to accomplish this eradication,"
says Valerius.

It has caused heartaches and headaches for the rancher. "My email
machine is loaded with things like that. That I should be sent to
jail. That I should be sent to prison for selling infected cattle.
How did I know that these cattle were infected?" says the rancher.

The rancher expects the state will pay for his cattle soon. Right
now, that's the least of his worries. "I just hope that something
like this doesn't happen to my neighbors," says the rancher.

"Now they're in the process of testing the herds in the surrounding
areas, approximately 1 mile [1.6 km] from where these cases were
found, and so far, I understand there are no positives," says Valerius.

The rancher and his wife wanted to raise a few head of cattle. "It's
something my father had started many, many years ago, and we
continued. But it's over now, and I just don't wish that for anyone
else," he said.

The ranch is quarantined. Their hopes and the herd are gone.

Brucellosis can also cause a disease in humans known as undulant
fever. It proved to be deadly in the 1930s and '40s, but modern
medicine has made it treatable.

[Byline: Polo Sandoval]

Communicated by:

[Brucellosis, in cattle, water buffalo, and bison is caused almost
exclusively by _Brucella abortus_ ; however, _B. suis_ or _B.
melitensis_ are occasionally implicated in some cattle herds. _B.
suis_ does not appear to be contagious from cow to cow. Infection
spreads rapidly and causes many abortions in unvaccinated cattle. In
a herd in which the disease is endemic, an infected cow typically
aborts only once after exposure; subsequent gestations and lactations
appear normal. After exposure, cattle become bacteremic for a short
period and develop agglutinins and other antibodies; some resist
infection and a small percentage of infected cows recover. A positive
serum agglutination test usually precedes an abortion or a normal
parturition but may be delayed in about 15 per cent of cows. The
incubation period may be variable and is inversely related to stage
of gestation at time of exposure. Organisms are shed in milk and
uterine discharges, and the cow may become temporarily infertile.
Bacteria may be found in the uterus during pregnancy, uterine
involution, and infrequently, for a prolonged time, in the non-gravid
uterus. Shedding from the vagina largely disappears with the decrease
of fluids following parturition. Some infected cows that previously
aborted shed brucellae from the uterus at subsequent normal
parturitions. Organisms are shed in milk for a variable length of
time -- in most cattle for life.

Natural transmission occurs by ingestion of organisms, which are
present in large numbers in aborted fetuses, fetal membranes, and
uterine discharges. Cattle may ingest contaminated feed and water, or
lick contaminated genitals of other animals. Venereal transmission by
infected bulls to susceptible cows appears to be rare. Transmission
may occur by artificial insemination when _Brucella_ -contaminated
semen is deposited in the uterus but, reportedly, not when deposited
in the mid-cervix. Brucellae may enter the body through mucous
membranes, conjunctivae, wounds, or intact skin.

Brucellae have been recovered from fetuses and from manure that has
remained in a cool environment for more than 2 months. Exposure to
direct sunlight kills the organisms within a few hours.

Because organisms are shed in the milk, unpasteurized milk, and
cheese represent a human health concern. Many individuals believe
drinking unpasteurized milk is better for their health. Diseases that
are not killed by pasteurization represent a risk to the consumer.
Brucellosis in humans causes malaise, fever, chills, sweats,
headache, neck pain, low back pain, joint pain, muscle pain,
occasionally diarrhea, constipation, anorexia, weight loss, abdominal
pain, weakness, irritability, insomnia, and depression. Brucellosis
has been called undulating fever because of its habit of producing
fever and signs that wax and wane over an extended period of time.

Portions of this comment have been extracted from
- Mod.TG]

[Texas can be located on the HealthMap/ProMED-mail interactive map at
. Starr County in south Texas can be
located on the map at
. - Sr.Tech.Ed.MJ]

[see also:
Brucellosis, cervid - USA: (MT) 20110228.0659
Brucellosis, bovine - USA: (WY) 20110212.0481
Brucellosis, human, livestock - Russia: (SR) RFI 20101206.4363
Brucellosis, bovine - USA (04): (WY) bison 20101202.4325
Brucellosis, bovine - USA (03): (WY)20101126.4261
Brucellosis, bovine - USA (02): (MT, WY)20101107.4041
Brucellosis, bovine - USA: (WY)20101101.3956]

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