Bovine TB in other species shows four fold increase

Cases of bovine tuberculosis in species other than cattle have shown a dramatic increase, according to DEFRA figures.

A total of 119 animals across eight species became infected with Mycobacterium bovis in 2008 – a four fold increase on 2007. The two previous years had fewer than 30 cases.

Of the species infected, the biggest rise was recorded in deer. From a single deer found to be carrying the disease in 2007 to 34 deer recorded in 2008.

Goats accounted for 33 cases compared with just two in 2007 and the number of diseased pigs found doubled from five in 2007 to 10 animals in 2008.

Cats, dogs, alpacas, llamas and sheep also showed increasing levels of infection.

About half of the cases were found in the West Country with south Wales accounting for a quarter of cases. The remainder were found in counties as far north as Lancashire.

The National Beef Association blamed the spread on DEFRA’s reluctance to tackle the disease in wildlife.

Jilly Greed NBA vice chairwoman in the southwest of England said the disease could pop up anywhere, spread through contact with badgers and badger latrines.

“How much more damage does TB have to do before the politicians admit something has to be done to protect the public, prevent animal suffering and save the economy.

“If DEFRA won’t say something we should go public and warn other users of the countryside that it is no longer safe to be out here without taking precautions.”

But a DEFRA spokeswoman said that the increase in numbers found was due to greater awareness of the disease in companion animals and better surveillance.