For Immediate Release
December 20, 2007
CONTACT: Steve Merritt
Public Information Officer
Montana Department of Livestock
MDOL Announces Completion of Brucellosis Test-Out
The Montana Department of Livestock has completed follow-up testing of livestock that was initiated after the discovery of brucellosis in seven cows earlier this year, and the state's cattle herd has received a clean bill of health.
"The epidemiological investigation of this spring's brucellosis outbreak has now been completed, and we're pleased to report that the state's cattle herd is brucellosis free," said Dr. Marty Zaluski, state veterinarian. "All of the tests came back negative, and we're confident we took actions that were appropriate and necessary to protect the state's livestock industry going forward."
The testing was required by the USDA-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service after brucellosis was found in a Bridger cattle herd. That herd, totaling 300 pair, was depopulated as dictated by federal and state animal health regulations.
Brucellosis is a serious disease of livestock that causes abortions, loss of young, infertility, decreased milk production and weight loss.
A zoonotic disease that can be passed to humans, brucellosis was once common in the U.S, but it has been largely eliminated by a 70-year USDA-lead national eradication program that includes pasteurization of dairy products, testing, vaccination and regulation of livestock movements. Brucellosis is still widespread elsewhere around the globe, where it causes significant human health and livestock production problems.
The last known reservoir of the disease in the U.S. is located in bison and other wildlife in and around Yellowstone National Park and the Greater Yellowstone Area. The epidemiological investigation suggests, but does not conclusively prove, that the infected cattle contracted the disease from wildlife.
Montana has enjoyed brucellosis-free status – a USDA designation that verifies the state's herd as officially free of the disease and gives producers trade advantages -- since 1985. The state will have to remain free of the disease until July of 2009 to retain that status. In the meantime, with follow-up testing now complete, Montana is free to ship cattle with no restrictions.
"Being able to maintain our brucellosis-free status is significant to the our livestock producers, and is obviously one of the Department's top priorities," Zaluski said. "It took a lot of hard work to get to this point, and we're going to do everything we can to protect our producers and our brucellosis-free status."
A total of 6,245 tests on cattle that potentially could have been exposed to the disease – including "trace-ins" and "trace-outs" from movements out of or into the index herd as well as cattle from adjacent herds – were performed, Zaluski said, with no positives.
"We were able to trace more than 99 percent of the cattle that were potentially exposed to the index herd," Zaluski said. "Being able to achieve that level of tracing is a testament to the state's animal health program, and to the outstanding cooperation we received from the state's livestock industry and USDA-APHIS."
Zaluski pointed out that the state's animal health operations are funded primarily by producer dollars.
"Montana's producers have long understood the importance of animal health, and they've taken it upon themselves to fund the efforts needed to protect of the nation's most outstanding livestock resources," he said.
The Montana Department of Livestock's legislatively mandated mission is "To control and eradicate animal diseases, prevent the transmission of animal diseases to humans, and protect the livestock industry from theft and predatory animals."