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Brucellosis Found In Wyoming Cattle Herd

by Maria A. Schulz

A herd of cows in Wyoming's Upper Green River Basin is infected with brucellosis, a bacterial disease that hasn't been seen in domestic farm animals since April 2002, authorities said on December 5.

The herd of 400 cows is near Boulder in Sublette County, about 100 miles south of Yellowstone National Park and next to Muddy Creek, a state feeding ground where infected elk have been known to graze.

Brucellosis can spread among and cause abortions in bison, elk, and cows. Though rare in humans, it can be debilitating and can be transmitted by drinking unpasteurized milk or handling infected cows.

People who contract the disease are usually veterinary workers, hunters and butchers.

Since 1934, the US Department of Agriculture's enforcement of standards to protect cows from brucellosis has included vaccination, and testing and slaughter of infected animals.

The ailment has almost been eliminated from farm animals in the United States, but it survives in wild elk and bison in the Yellowstone region, where cattle also graze.

Neighboring herds of cows have been tested and officials are awaiting results to determine the extent of the infection. Governor Dave Freudenthal said he is extremely concerned about the possible impact on Wyoming's farming industry. Since 1985, the federal government has classified Wyoming as brucellosis-free.

Colorado officials have already prohibited any Sublette County, northern Lincoln County or Teton County cows from coming into Colorado. Freudenthal said that, to his knowledge, no other states have taken action against Wyoming's farm animals.

Idaho had a similar scare in April 2002, which was the last time cows in the United States were known to have contracted the disease. However, Idaho state veterinarian Clarence Siroky said no sanctions were planned against Wyoming, but that they would watch the situation closely.

"We're going to turn the screws up to make sure we're increasing our surveillance," Siroky added.

The 400 cows from the infected herd have been quarantined. According to reports, the 400 cows are all facing slaughter, as a way of preventing the spread of the disease.

2003 Animal News Center, Inc.

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