Bovine Tuberculosis Emergency

By George Grow

This is the VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT.

American officials are concerned about the spread of bovine tuberculosis. Recently, Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman ordered the expansion of a program against the disease. Mr. Glickman says bovine tuberculosis could harm the trade of animals and animal products. He said the disease threatens farmers with losses. He warned it also might lead to higher food prices.

Mr. Glickman approved forty-four million dollars in emergency aid for the program this year. The Agriculture Department reports the effort is expected to last several years.

Bovine tuberculosis mainly affects cows, bison and deer. It is especially dangerous for cattle that produce milk. Recent tests have shown a major bovine tuberculosis threat from infected wildlife. Infected deer or other wild animals pass the disease to nearby cattle.

Tuberculosis is caused by bacteria that attack the breathing system. Bovine tuberculosis is spread mainly through the air when an infected animal is with other animals. Studies suggest infected animal feed also can cause the disease to spread.

The problem of bovine tuberculosis is most severe in two American states. In Michigan, the disease infected at least eight groups of cattle. Officials say cattle in Texas near the border with Mexico also are infected.

Under the expanded program, Agriculture Department officials will investigate bovine tuberculosis in American wildlife and in zoos. They will improve ways to identify the disease. They will pay farmers for the loss of infected or high-risk animals. And they will establish identification requirements for animals imported into the United States.

Officials in Michigan say bovine tuberculosis is a serious problem among the state's white-tailed deer population. More than thirty-eight thousand deer have been tested there over the past five years. Almost three-hundred had the disease.

Experts say a skin test is the best way to confirm the presence of bovine tuberculosis in cattle or privately-owned deer. Michigan officials say one way to reduce the threat is to halt the feeding of wild deer. They also have proposed reducing the deer population in areas where tuberculosis is found. They say this should help reduce the problem over a period of years.

This VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT was written by George Grow.

Voice of America Special English