Sunday, June 23, 2013

Ignorance is bliss

Recently, we took a leaf out America's handbook and rechristened 'bovine' tuberculosis  Zoonotic tuberculosis. This was because the Tweeters and Twitterers and some people who really should know better, appeared confused by the word 'bovine', assuming that this type of disease affected cattle - and only cattle.

But a raft of media reports this week, have described an outbreak of zoonotic tuberculosis in beef cattle grazing Greenham common in Berkshire.
Comfortingly, a spokesperson from Public Health England is reported to have said:
"the risk to humans is negligible as bovine TB is a different strain to the disease that can affect humans."
That statement appears in every report published, including (or especially) the BBC one, which many plagiarise. Leaving aside the grammatical niceties of that brief statement, it is mind blowingly, stupidly and dangerously inaccurate.
While still hooked up on the risk to humans from unpasteurised milk, this government agency does say in its blumph about Zoonotic tuberculosis:
It is not possible to clinically differentiate between TB caused by M. bovis and that caused by M. tuberculosis. The course and extent of the disease is the same, as is the treatment in most cases. Standard anti-tuberculosis therapy is effective against TB caused by M. bovis, however, the organism is inherently resistant to the drug pyrazinamide which is therefore omitted once M. bovis has been identified and its drug susceptibility is known.

In cases where there is extensive lymph involvement or damage or obstruction to other tissues, surgery is often indicated. Like M. tuberculosis, M. bovis too has the capacity to acquire drug resistance and ensuring that patients are able take a full course of treatment is similarly essential.
But this born again quango has yet to catch up with the burgeoning reservoir of a fatal zoonosis up spilling from wildlife, not into our tested, slaughtered cattle, but into domestic pets and companion mammals. And from them to their owners. As Phil Latham says in that article (link above):
"It is important to remember why bovine or zoonotic TB is controlled by international conventions – it is because humans can be infected and it beggars belief that infection levels have been allowed to increase both in cattle and wildlife for the last 15 years."
Perhaps someone would be kind enough to remind England's Public Health department of their International obligations and the effect of zoonotic tuberculosis on some of their patients. And quickly.

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