Idaho officials searching for source of brucellosis case

Dec 4, 2009

Idaho officials searching for

source of brucellosis case

Idaho State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) officials are working to determine if brucellosis found in a beef cow in Rigby has spread to other herds or remained isolated. Discovery of the infectious disease has sent shudders through the state’s livestock industry 

Discovery of the infectious disease has sent shudders through the state’s livestock industry because of the negative impact it could have on cattle prices and meat sales.

Bill Barton, ISDA state veterinarian, issued a memo to state animal health officials on Monday, Nov. 30, alerting them to the fact the cow from a new 600-head eastern Idaho herd tested positive for brucellosis, which can cause pregnant cows to spontaneously abort their calves.

It also can cause infertility, decreased milk production and weight loss in cattle, elk and bison, but is rarely transmitted to humans.

Barton said the animal and other cattle in the herd had been vaccinated for brucellosis, but the shots are not always 100 percent effective. No bred females or calves have been sold from the herd, but some cows had been sold directly to slaughter.

Epidemiologists have been trying to pinpoint the infection’s source. The herd has been quarantined and tested, with its owner fully cooperating, Barton said. The herd’s cattle came from a variety of sources, including livestock markets and private sales. It was not determined where the owner bought the infected cow.

Lindsay Cole, a spokeswoman with USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said USDA has launched an investigation into whether brucellosis has spread to other herds.

Idaho was declared brucellosis-free in 2007 after losing that distinction the previous year when the disease was found in a Swan Valley cattle herd near the Wyoming border.

The disease has been eliminated nationwide except for the Yellowstone National Park region and abutting counties in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. A public comment period on a proposal to designate the area as a brucellosis hot zone was to end Friday, Dec. 4.

The proposal would protect cattle producers in the area from paying for expensive testing for any animals they would ship out of state, which could spare the infected cow’s owner from being asked to slaughter his herd, at least for the time being.

Wyoming was granted brucellosis-free status in 2006 after losing it three years earlier when the disease was detected in a cattle herd near Pinedale. Montana gained brucellosis-free status in September after losing it in 2008. Brucellosis must be found in two separate herds within 24 months for Idaho to lose its free status. — Mark Mendiola, WLJ correspondent