Game commission warns of deer TB

This young buck was spotted this past August in Salem Township. The state commission is monitoring the deer herd for signs of pulmonary tuberculosis.

CLARION - Archery deer hunting season opened across Pennsylvania Oct. 5. In September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report which should serve as a warning to local hunters.

The report indicated a 77-year-old Michigan man had been diagnosed with pulmonary tuberculosis after being infected with Bovine TB.

According to the report, Bovine TB is caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium bovis. Humans are generally infected with BTB after consuming unpasteurized milk.

However, the report states the Michigan man's illness came as a result of inhaling M. bovis bacteria while he was field-dressing a deer.

According to Pennsylvania Game Commission Northwest Region wildlife management supervisor Roger Coup, when PGC researchers complete sampling studies for Chronic Wasting Disease within Pennsylvania's deer populations, they also look for suspicious signs of infectious diseases such as BTB.

No positive cases of BTB have been found in Pennsylvania's wild deer herd to date.

Still, Coup recommended hunters use the same precautions they would normally institute when field-dressing deer.

"Wearing latex gloves and being careful with the handling of bloods or bodily fluids is important," said Coup. "Hunters should clean and disinfect their equipment very well. Hunting clothes should be washed separately and deer meat should be cooked thoroughly."

Coup added, in the positive case found in Michigan, the infected individual was reported to be 77 years old.

"Fortunately it's a very rare case," Coup explained, expressing an additional caution to older hunters. "If hunters feel it's necessary, they can wear a simple mask to keep from inhaling bacteria."

Coup noted signs of a BTB-infected deer can be spotted almost anywhere internally.

"Often it can be found around the rib cage area once organs are removed or on the organs themselves," Coup said. "What you would see is pea sized nodules indicative of TB."

According to the PGC's website, enlarged superficial lymph nodes can indicate the infection of a deer. When cut open, the nodules may contain yellow-green or tan pus. Additionally, tan or yellow lumps may be found throughout the chest cavity and lungs, with the lungs potentially developing dark and firm areas.

The PGC also states M. bovis can cause infection in other wild and domestic animal species, including black bears, bobcats, coyotes, opossums, raccoons and foxes. Cattle, swine and cats are also susceptible to the disease through transmission.

The disease can be transmitted either through inhalation or ingestion of M. bovis.

CDC figures indicate M. bovis causes less than 2 percent of the total number of cases of tuberculosis in the United States, accounting for less than 230 tuberculosis cases per year.

An infected deer could exhibit coughing, nasal discharge and difficulty breathing. Moreover, some deer may show no signs of infection and die suddenly.

Since the disease has not been found in any Pennsylvania deer, Coup advised hunters should not be alarmed at the newfound Michigan case, but should be on the lookout for signs of BTB in any deer they harvest this season.

"Any hunter that field dresses a dear and notices abnormalities should notify the game commission immediately," said Coup. "I would urge people not to be scared, but just to take precautions."