Friday, July 15, 2005

Tb Spillover - Pigs

After our posts on the spill over of bTB into deer and cats (see archives) BBC News has reported that bTb has been found in a batches of Cornish pigs consigned to a small abattoir near Bodmin, in mid Cornwall.

Two pigs and some piglets from a farm near Bodmin, were sent for slaughter but were found to have lesions in head glands, but one had generalised infection in the carcass, said the owner.

Defra is 'monitoring' the farm, but said that it had no record of when it was last informed of bovine tb in pigs as it was not a notifiable disease in that species.

The owner of the pig farm Martin Appleton, told reporters for the BBC that he was sure infected badgers surrounding his farm were to blame. He has 10 setts on his smallholding.

"Badger proofing is impossible. We've got open sheds either side, it [a badger] will climb or tunnel, and a hungry badger will go where it wants".

Abattoir owner Vernon Lobb who has been the meat business all his life, said:
"I've never experienced it [ bovine tb] in a pig before".

Badger campaigner, Pauline Kidner commented;
"Culling an animal alone is not going to resolve the problem"

The International Society for Infectious Diseases who operate the ProMed website ( are more succinct.

The ProMed comment on this BBC report:

"Contrary to the views expressed by some interviewees, the spillover of bovine TB from the highly infected, dense badger population in Cornwall to other species wild and domestic, porcines included, should not be surprising.

Though laboratory confirmation on the species identity of the mycobacterium isolated from the affected pigs (lymphnodes) should be awaited, it may be assumed to be M.Bovis.

If the current situation continues, it might be only a matter of time before humans are infected......"

A postscript to this story was found in the Farmers Guardian (16th July) where their article carried the headline 'Milk linked to bovine tb in pigs..'.

Pretty strong stuff. The article quoted a 'Defra Animal Health spokesperson', (unamed but full of mischief - if not spite and spin)
"We are looking into the pigs consuming dairy by products as a possible source. It is possible that the milk came from infected cows.."

Now this story is not new. The pigs were found to have lesions in mid March. And in mid March, Defra's local SVS (State Veterinary Service) clanked into action. Samples were taken for culture, and sources checked. Mr. Appleton confirms that he sometimes fed very fresh milk (that's milk from a cow which has calved in the previous 4 days and not allowed into the food chain) to his Gloucester Old Spot rare breed pigs. SVS were informed and (in mid March) checked the health status of the supplying farm. And to make doubly sure. they tb tested the farm again.

It had a clear test before the incident, and it had a clear test afterwards.

The Defra spokesman added:"We may never find the source of the outbreak. It may never be proved one way or the other....".

But at the time of this statement, Defra's SVS arm had already re-tested the herd supplying occasional milk to the pigs. And it was clear. Twice.

So 'we' knew what the source was not, didn't 'we'?

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