Bovine Tuberculosis (bovine TB) Trace-In Activities

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is continuing to make progress in its bovine TB investigation in response to the detection of the disease in an Alberta cow in September 2016.

The CFIA has depopulated the infected herd and the highest risk herds that co-mingled with the infected herd. Six cases of bovine TB were confirmed in the index herd. The CFIA has also identified animals that left the infected herd in the last five years (trace-out animals) so that the trace-out animals could be destroyed and their herds could be quarantined and tested. The testing for trace-out animals is largely complete with no additional cases to date.

The next phase of the bovine TB investigation will involve trace-in herds.

What are trace-in herds and activities?

  • Trace-in herds are herds with animals that were introduced to the infected herd over the past five years
  • The purpose of trace-in activities is to identify animals that may have been the source of the disease.
  • Bovine TB is contagious and spread by contact with infected animals, usually by inhaling infected salvia droplets. It is important to note that bovine TB can also be transferred to livestock from wildlife or infected humans who are in direct an ongoing contact with the livestock.
  • Bovine TB can lie dormant in infected animals for years without causing symptoms, therefore trace-in and trace-out activities are directed at animals that could have been in contact with infected animals over the past five years.
  • All animals in the trace-in herd are quarantined at the time of testing to prevent movement of animals during the initial screening testing.
  • Trace-in herds that do not have positive results during the screening and initial laboratory tests will be released approximately one month after quarantine. Farms with individual animals that require all levels of testing in order to confirm the absence of the disease, will remain under quarantine for approximately four months.

What will trace-in activities look like for this response?

  • Testing of trace-in herds (herds that sent animals to the infected herd in the past five years) has started with the majority of the on–farm testing expected to be completed by December 31, 2017.
  • Most quarantines are expected to be in place for approximately four weeks.
  • It is expected that a total of approximately 15,000 animals will be placed under quarantine over the course of the testing period. It is anticipated that and approximately 50 of these will be ordered destroyed (with compensation) and undergo additional testing. More than 500 animals were ordered destroyed as part of the trace-out activities.

Why conduct trace-in activities?

Determine the source of infection

  • Although an exact determination of the source of infection is not always possible, the trace-in activities reduce the risk of undetected bovine TB within Canada's livestock population.
  • Trace-in activities also can help determine if bovine TB program adjustments are required in areas such as import controls, encouraging improved biosecurity measures and managing the potential risks associated with infected wildlife.

Protecting animals by limiting the spread and eradicating the disease

  • The CFIA has a mandate to prevent the introduction and spread of federally reportable diseases in Canadian livestock and poultry.
  • Canada's bovine TB eradication program protects the health cattle and other livestock by reducing the risk of exposure to the disease
  • Testing is the only way to eliminate animals as the possible source of infection and reduce the risk of additional outbreaks.
  • The disease is slow taking months or years to kill an infected animal, and can remain dormant for years in animals without causing any symptoms, so an animal can spread the disease to herd mates before it shows any symptoms.

Maintain access to export markets

  • Canada exports about half the beef it produces, with the U.S. being Canada's largest customer. Canadian beef is sold in over 70 countries around the world.
  • Canada's bovine TB free status supports market access for Canadian animals and beef products for a sector worth more than $20 billion annually to the Canadian economy.
  • Demonstrating an effective disease response plays an important role in maintaining market access.

Satisfy Canadian OIE obligations

  • Bovine TB is internationally recognized as a serious disease listed with the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and is a federally reportable disease under the Health of Animals Act.
  • As an OIE member, Canada respects the OIE codes, including the Terrestrial Animal Health Code which is used by veterinary authorities of importing and exporting countries to prevent the transfer of disease by the international trade of animals.
  • Once the investigation is concluded, Canada prepares an outbreak investigation report to inform trading partners that appropriate disease control measures have been implemented and will note the source of the outbreak if it has been identified.

Maintain Canada's reputation as a science based regulator

  • CFIA is respected around the world as a science-based regulator because our system applies rigorous standards to prevent the introduction and spread of animal disease.
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