Idaho’s state Board of Examiners, which consists of the governor, secretary of state, and attorney general with the state controller serving as secretary, voted today to spend up to $5 million to track down and test cattle that could be infected with bovine tuberculosis. Several hundred dairy bulls from a California facility where the disease has shown up were imported into Idaho; the state Department of Agriculture has declared an emergency to track them down, test them, and see whether they could have spread TB to other herds or other animals. “It’s obviously a concern, and any time you have an outbreak like that, to ensure safety is something that needs to be done,” said Jon Hanian, spokesman for Gov. Butch Otter, who chairs the Board of Examiners. The money will be paid via deficiency warrants, the same procedure the state uses to pay for unexpected wildfire fighting costs.
State Agriculture Director Celia Gould, in a memo to the Board of Examiners, said bovine TB can affect both humans and animals, but there’s very low risk of it spreading to humans because it’s not spread in meat and pasteurizing kills it in milk products. However, people who consume unpasteurized raw milk products containing the bacteria could be at risk, as could people who are in close contact with infected cattle. The disease also can be spread from one animal to another through coughing or exhalations.
“It’s a huge problem,” said Brad Hoaglun, spokesman for state Controller Donna Jones. “They’re trying to find where these bulls went throughout the state.” Hundreds of cattle already have been tested, and tests have been negative so far, Hoaglun said. Tens of thousands could potentially be tested. Gould wrote, “The majority of infected animals do not display clinical signs of the disease and may be infected for years before any signs appear. The most common clinical signs of TB include a cough, weight and production loss, variable appetite and fluctuating fevers.”