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Tuberculosis, or TB, is a contagious disease of both animals and humans.  It is caused by three specific types of bacteria that are part of the Mycobacterium group:  Mycobacterium bovis, M. avium, and M. tuberculosis.

Bovine TB, caused by M. bovis, can be transmitted from livestock to humans and other animals.  No other TB organism has as great a host range as bovine TB, which can infect all warm-blooded vertebrates.  M. avium can affect all species of birds, as well as hogs and cattle.  M. tuberculosis primarily affects humans but can also be transmitted to hogs, cattle, and dogs.

Bovine TB has affected animal and human health for many years.  Once the most prevalent infectious disease of cattle and swine in the United States, bovine TB caused more losses among U.S. farm animals in the early part of this century than all other infectious diseases combined.  Established in 1917, the Cooperative State-Federal Tuberculosis Eradication Program, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's, or USDA, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, or APHIS, state animal health agencies, and U.S. livestock producers, has nearly eradicated bovine TB from the nation's livestock population.  This disease's presence in humans has been reduced as a result of the eradication program, advances in sanitation and hygiene, the discovery of effective drugs, and pasteurization of milk.

Pennsylvania obtained Tuberculosis Free Status pursuant to our nation's tuberculosis eradication program in June, 2000.  The department had been working very diligently to achieve this goal.  Throughout the years, bovine tuberculosis has been a serious health threat for both cattle and people; and USDA is preparing for a concerted effort to eradicate TB from cattle herds in the United States.  This TB Free status gained for Pennsylvania had a significant economic impact for our animal industry in both the domestic and international arenas.  Currently, PA has 309 active bovine herds on the program, 102 accredited caprine herds, and 232 accredited cervid herds.

With this status, we have on-going requirements which include:

  • Monitoring by individual herd accreditation tests
  • Testing of animals for show and sale
  • Monitoring slaughter market testing
  • Testing diagnostic specimens that come to the laboratory
  • Testing wildlife specimens submitted to the laboratory for TB

The number of accredited herds and sale/show tests has decreased due to Pennsylvania's TB free status and reduced testing requirements for animal movement.  This results in significant savings to the industry.  Total surveillance is estimated at close to 900,000 cattle tested per year, and PA-accredited veterinarians perform most of the TB testing.

Disease Prevention and Control

The Division of Animal and Poultry Health develops test programs for regulating diseases such as tuberculosis.  Disease control programs help prevent this disease and protect our animal agriculture.  The Tuberculosis Program includes the Accredited Cattle and Goat Herd Programs and the Accredited, Qualified and Monitored Cervid Herd Programs.

Health Certification

The department evaluates health certificates for both interstate and intrastate movement to assure that animals in Pennsylvania are healthy and have met necessary health requirements.