Thursday, August 07, 2008

" I thought it was just farm animals"

A posting on a farm forum this week brought home the reality of b.tuberculosis to a member of the general public. We have stressed many times that control of this disease is not optional. There is a statutory obligation on governments to eradicate it from both farmed and wild animals, primarily to protect human health.

Letting the disease rip through the badger population while slaughtering tested cattle (and now goat) sentinels will not reduce the amount of bacteria in the environment, and neither will it reduce the potential of its exposure to domestic pets and their owners.

A cat owner - or should we say 'former' cat owner - in Bristol, took his pet to his local vet after it developed a cough. The cat did not respond to any treatment, lost weight and was euthanased. Remembering baby-Ben Bradshaw's 2006 edict to veterinary practitioners of 'check for TB' and the most important bit - 'bTB is now notifiable in all mammals, so Defra pay for surveillance', the vet offered a postmortem. The post described the result:
"She had tuberculosis and we now all have to go for some sort of skin test to see if we have caught it from the cat. We live in the middle of Bristol and the vet said he had other cases. Apparently cats are very susceptable. On the waste land about half a mile away some badgers have moved in and the vet said this is the most likely place where the cats are getting it.
The cat owner said that he had telephoned the council pest control, but was told they could not do anything. Sometimes the area of waste land is used by children and he asks:
"Will they get tuberculosis as well? This is not something I have heard about before. I thought it was just farm animals".

No, it is not 'just farm animals', or even cattle. And as this bacteria, spread across the countryside in the urine, sputum and pus falling from endemically infected badgers is offered in increasing amounts to the general public and their pets, expect to see more casualties like this and this.
Farmers are being told, they must 'live with it', but continuing exposure to increasing amounts of m.bovis by the general public and their pets, inevitably means that many will 'die from it'.

The Bristol cat owner has posted the result of the TB skin tests which he and his family have now had. (11 / 08 - page 8) While he and the two children are clear, his partner had a grade 4 reaction, and now has to go for a chest x-ray.

Thankfully caught at an early stage of possible transmission, the X-rays were clear. But sputum samples have been taken for cultures - a process which takes 6/8 weeks in cattle - and the patient started on antibiotics. The course of antibiotics used to treat tuberculosis is a mixture of several, some with particularly nasty side effects. One (Isoniazid) has a very long list of food and drink which may not be consumed while the patient is receiving treatment with it.

We wish her well.


Isabel said...

Here is the thread for anyone who is interested:

Matthew said...

Thanks Isabel. We concentrated on the cat and exposure to children in our posting, but the original story, posted on FWi described the waasteland area being frequented by drug addicts and prostitutes.
It has been pointed out that such members of society are at higher risk of immuno suppression than most, and thus are at greater risk from exposure to tuberculosis.

Anonymous said...

I would like to add that some people are not aware that the TB vaccination for children has now been stopped in this country. UNLESS, children come from ethnic minorities and from countries where TB is rife! As a parent of two young school age children and living on a dairy farm, I requested that my children be given the vaccine and even offered to pay for it. However, I have been refused......