Statement: Update on the Bovine Tuberculosis (TB) Investigation – Alberta and Saskatchewan (2017-02-03)

The following statement is an update on the bovine tuberculosis (TB) investigation that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is conducting in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The Agency has completed depopulation of all mature cattle from the 18 farming operations that were declared to be infected, and has conducted screening tests on all these animals.

All of the cattle that reacted to the initial screening test were subjected to enhanced post-mortem examinations that included more detailed inspection for the presence of lesions related to bovine tuberculosis. However, the number of infected cattle remains at six, and all of these six cattle were from the same farming operation.

Based on the evidence that we have gathered to date, the Agency has determined that the investigation will be focused on the single infected farming operation. This path forward is only possible as long as no new cases of tuberculosis are identified. While there was strong evidence that there could have been a high risk of disease spread, the initial test results are showing a more encouraging outcome. There have been no new confirmed cases of bovine tuberculosis related to this investigation.

Our evidence shows that there is low risk that the disease was further transmitted by the cattle that co-mingled with the cattle from the infected farming operation on the community pasture. Additionally, we have also eliminated the risk of further spread of tuberculosis since all mature cattle have been depopulated. The CFIA followed accepted animal disease investigation practices, and determined that based on the information that we obtained during the initial phase of the investigation, we can now limit the tracing activities to one farming operation.

The herds that are currently under quarantine have received animals from the infected farming operation. The CFIA is conducting screening tests on these animals. Only animals that react to the tests will be humanely slaughtered and an enhanced post-mortem examination will be conducted. Herds that have no reactors can be released from quarantine.

While we have focused extensively on the potential for the spread of disease so far, we are now turning our focus to tracing activities to identify the source of the infection as part of our eradication activities and to minimize further spread of the disease.

Testing of herds identified through tracing activities will begin in the fall, because calving season has already started in Western Canada. This will minimize stress on cows that are pregnant or have recently given birth. It will also allow cattle from these low-risk herds to proceed to summer pasture.

We have worked closely with the governments of Alberta and Saskatchewan. We all agree that the evidence supports focusing the investigation on the infected farming operation.

The latest information on our investigation and the path forward have been shared with producers and their associations. 

Producers that were owners of the co-mingled herds will be able to proceed with cleaning and disinfection under CFIA oversight. Once the CFIA has verified that this has been completed, these producers will be allowed to restock. Restocked cattle will be tested six and 18 months after entry onto the premises. This ongoing surveillance helps confirm the effectiveness of the cleaning and disinfection.

The CFIA is committed to a thorough, scientifically-based investigation and response, in order to maintain the confidence of Canada's trading partners.

In all cases where bovine TB is suspected or confirmed, the goal is to minimize disruptions to producers, while respecting Canada's domestic and international obligations to take appropriate and prudent control measures. These measures are critical for protecting the health of Canadian livestock and maintaining market access for Canadian beef producers.

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