Volume 3, Number 36 - December 5, 2003
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Brucellosis: One more herd, status goes
Wyoming State Veterinarian Dr. Jim Logan reported Friday that after testing 391 head of cattle on Don (Doc) Jensen's Boulder-area cattle ranch, the final count included 29 positive brucellosis reactors.
Brucellosis is a bacterial disease that causes abortion in ungulates, of which there is no cure. Preventative measures call for veterinarians to administer the vaccination of heifer cattle, but the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service notes that vaccination is not 100 percent effective, although it does increase the animal's resistance to the disease.
Some of the Jensen herd's reactors had been vaccinated with RB51, the new vaccine approved for use in 1986, while the others had used the older vaccine, Strain 19. Logan said this should help to quell the notion that the brucellosis infection was the result of the failure of the new vaccine.
"It is absolutely not a failure of RB51," Logan said, since the disease apparently overwhelmed both the vaccines.
Brucellosis is transmitted by direct contact with infected animals or with an environment that has been contaminated with discharges from infected animals.
State officials consider the herd to be an infected herd based on significant preliminary test results. All the reactors will have to be destroyed. The disposition of the rest of the quarantined herd is not definite, Logan said, since that will be discussed between state and federal animal health officials and the herd owner.
The herd can either be "depopulated," which means sent to slaughter, or can be retained by the owner, with an extended quarantine and repeated testing program.
Although Logan made the infected herd declaration, he pointed out that federal officials have not made the same declaration at this point, as they wait for several more confirmatory tests to be completed at a federal lab. The results probably won't be available until mid-week next week.
Logan said he made the declaration because the evidence demonstrates it, but also because it gave Wyoming a chance to start the testing process on other herds before a federal clock starts ticking.
"Once they designate, Wyoming only has a 60-day time frame to get all the other testing done," Logan said, in an effort to preserve its brucellosis-free status.
"This buys us at least another week's worth of time," Logan said. "It would be stupid of us to sit back and wait to be designated to do the things we need to do."
Brucellosis-free status allows the free movement of Wyoming cattle, without added testing requirements. APHIS controls the state's brucellosis classification, but the state is delegated quarantine responsibilities.
When asked at what point federal officials would revoke Wyoming's brucellosis-free status, Logan said: "One more cow in another herd. That's it, and we don't have a choice."
Logan again emphasized the importance of cooperation, noting that animal health officials at both the state and federal effort have functioned well so far with their involvement, in a real team effort, and urged other livestock producers to enter this situation with the same cooperative mode.
Any other livestock herds that have come into contact with the Jensen herd are required to be tested for brucellosis, Logan said.
"It's a mandatory situation," Logan said. "There are no two ways about it. To retain our brucellosis-free status, we have to have the cooperation from everybody. There is going to be some grumbling, but we have got to work together to get it straightened out."
Animal health officials had already scheduled one contact herd and one other neighborhood herd for testing, but other producers have now stepped forward to get on the schedule for testing, Logan said.
As animal health officials trace out contact herds from various grazing allotments and movement of cattle from the area, there are more contact herds that will have to be tested, Logan said.
"It's going to be a big job," Logan said.
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