Concerns have been raised over the spread of bovine TB after a veterinary nurse was infected with the disease.

The woman, from Cornwall, has been treated for a serious respiratory infection, while her daughter and her dog are understood to have been tested for TB.

The Health Protection Agency, which monitors public health, confirmed the case but said there was no cause to panic.

Low risk

Bovine TB is known to spread to humans but occurrences are rare.

According to DEFRA’s website, less than 1% of confirmed cases of TB in humans were due to infection with bovine TB.

Despite the low risk, ‘robust controls’ are in place to minimise risk to public health, it said.

Andy Biggs, spokesman for the British Cattle Veterinary Association, said it was not yet known how the woman had contracted the illness.

Dangerous

It was possible she had come across a cow with TB in the course of her work, but it was “dangerous” to assume she had caught the disease from cattle, he said.

“It is also possible that the dog may have come into contact with infected wildlife, or she may have caught the illness abroad.”

Mr Briggs said farmers and vets coming into contact with TB-infected cattle were at most risk from the disease and said they should avoid inhaling cows’ breath.

However of the cases of humans infected with the bovine strain of TB, all had been found to come from other humans rather than cattle, he added.