The Washington State Department of Agriculture is investigating a case of possible bovine tuberculosis in a dairy cow following test results provided to the agency. The cow had been sent to a Cowlitz County facility for slaughter, but the meat was held after a food safety inspector identified a problem and submitted samples for testing.
State health authorities claim there is no immediate human health concern connected to the suspected bovine TB case, although the disease from bovines is capable of infecting most mammals. The meat from the infected cow has been isolated until the test results come back.
The meat will not enter distribution channels.
"The good news is that the safety systems in place were effective in identifying this problem and preventing it from spreading," says WSDA Director Dan Newhouse. "Now, our inspectors will work with our federal, state and agricultural partners to trace this to its source and determine whether any other cows were infected."
WSDA's preliminary investigation indicates that the cow was culled from a Grant County dairy herd and transported to the Cowlitz County slaughter facility to be processed into meat for human consumption.
At the slaughter house, however, a meat inspector with USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service noticed a suspicious lesion and sent a sample to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Iowa
The lab reported back that the sample was "consistent with bovine TB.
Bovine TB is very contagious among cattle and can cause severe coughing, fatigue and emaciation in infected animals. The WSDA has issued an order preventing the dairy from moving any of its cows and directing that all milk products from the herd be pasteurized.
Pasteurization kills bacteria like TB.
The state ag department is working closely with USDA inspectors in tracing the origin of the outbreak.