Bovine TB in Cats – a Zoonotic Disease

Cat in a field in the UKCats could pass on bovine TB (tuberculosis) to people, we are told. Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection of the lungs. There are two aspects to this story that stand out:

  • Bovine TB is in the news in the UK because there is shortly to be a massive badger cull to try and prevent it and DEFRA – the people who oversee farming in the UK – are selling, for human consumption, large amounts of beef contaminated with bovine TB at the same time as arguing for a badger cull. This is hypocritical and two-faced behavior from government. In defense the government say that the TB is in the lungs and these are not eaten and therefore the beef is safe. Why cull badgers then?
  • The domestic cat is always a potential target for criticism as a carrier of disease. It is almost a habit of some people to criticize the domestic cat this way.

So, bovine TB is in the news and now we are told that the roaming domestic cat can pick up this “deadly disease” from:

  • cattle and;
  • infected milk and;
  • badger setts or rodents that have been in badger setts and;
  • fights with feral cats or contact with badgers.

…..and then pass it on to their human caretakers through close contact.

How many cats have bovine TB?

20 out of every 100,000 cats are thought to have bovine TB. That is 0.02 percent of cats. A University of Edinburgh Royal School of Veterinary Studies team said that 17% of cats with TB had a type of bovine TB.

The organism – a bacteria – that causes the disease is mycobacterium bovis. It seems that transmission to cats can also occur via voles.

It all seems rather vague to me. It absolutely makes no difference whatsoever to me and I think this story is almost irrelevant to cat caretakers. It is a case of the press getting hold of something and turning it into a story.

The fact that the UK government is selling £10m of TB contaminated beef on the open market each year (28,000 animals) some of which is used for human consumption including at schools indicates that bovine TB does not present a risk to human health on a scale that should bother us. The usual way bovine TB is transmitted to people is by drinking unpasteurised milk.

Prof Gunn-Moore puts things into perspective. She is more concerned for cats than humans because she sees it as an extremely low risk to humans. However, she describes the spread of the disease as “spilling over” into the feline population.

Associated page: Zoonotic disease – cats

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Bovine TB in Cats – a Zoonotic Disease — 8 Comments

  1. Everybody and everything is exposed to countless billions of germs and bacteria every day. It is part of normal life. This new scare is an indication of ignorance and hysteria. These anti-cat fanatics perhaps would be happy to have rats, mice, and cockroaches crawling all over their house, their food, toothbrush, kitchen utensils, etc. They would soon see where the real dangers come from. Cats keep down real sources of health risks. Low level exposure to pathogens keeps out immune system working, otherwise we would be devastated by sudden contact with high levels of otherwise harmless germs. Vaccinations are simply refinement nature’s way. Have these freaks any evidence of anyone becoming TB positive from a cat, or badger for that matter? The main source was un pasteurized milk but nobody called for any culling of cattle en masse.

    • Totally agree. There is no evidence that a cat has transmitted bovine TB to a person as far as I am aware. It is media madness really and the cat seems to be a victim. I dislike it intensely.

  2. Thank you, Harvey, for putting it into perspective. Have you posted elsewhere on this absurd media frenzy?

    [Michael, what happened to the font for date/time stamp? It’s difficult to read now. Is it me]

  3. I’ve sent some sharp remarks to news articles on such sites as yahoo and newspaper blogs, particularly in response to the junk science from the Smithsonian and cat predation. The figures they gave would have meant that all the bird population of the USA had been wiped out years ago. Seems that to work for the Smithsonian and other prestigious centres of learning the main qualification is an IQ of 70 and the mathematical ability of a child of 3. Not much better at UC Davis where the top researchers expect us to fall for their story that a mishmash of American and European breeds is the genuine Turkish Angora whereas cats from Ankara and other Turkish cities are Cyprus moggies. These are all politically correct pawns who don’t need to get anything right. Just to follow what the commissar dictates. We cannot rest with all of this dangerous nonsense going on . We have to fight back everyday.

  4. Another excuse cat haters are using to try to turn people against cats, how low those scaremongers stoop!
    Those ‘experts’ would have us all scared to breathe in case we inhaled a germ, life is for living with all its risks and for all the ‘dangers’ we are warned about, many of us live to old age.
    How are children supposed to develop an immune system if animals are looked upon with suspicion?
    I hope this latest rubbish doesn’t cause more cats to be dumped by the idiots who believe anything they are told.

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