Tests to find source of bovine TB in Cumbrian herd

Tests have been carried out to find the source of bovine tuberculosis which has led to the slaughter of about 80 cattle from a Cumbrian herd.

The disease was found on a farm near Penrith, which has not been identified.

The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) said it did not know the source but the results of tests should be known next week.

It said bovine TB was relatively rare in Cumbria and it was working to ensure that remained the case.

The disease is caused by Mycobacterium bovis, a close relative of the bacterium that usually causes TB in humans.

Because the bovine bacterium can also cause human TB, infected cattle have to be destroyed.

'Terrible news'

The AHVLA said the breakdown was in a closed herd, which means cattle were not being moved in or out of the herd.

Spokeswoman Caroline Ling said about 100 animals had been classed as reactors after reacting to skin tests for the disease.

About 80 animals have been slaughtered and another 20 are due to be shortly.

She said the source of the disease was not yet known.

Testing is being carried out at the farm and any other premises adjoining the farm that have cattle.

An AHVLA statement said: "Every breakdown of bovine TB is serious to the cattle owner involved, and in each case it is important that action is taken quickly to prevent the spread of the disease to other holdings.

"This has been done, and we are now working hard to eradicate the disease and trace the source of the infection."

It said there was no evidence of TB infection in local wildlife, which should mean the risk of transmission to neighbouring farms was reduced.

The NFU said it would be a major blow for the farmer involved, both financially and in terms of the time spent building up a herd.

NFU Cumbria county chairman Robert Craig said: "This is terrible news for this farming family and will come as a shock to farmers across the county and beyond.

"It's important that we wait to hear from Animal Health [the Animal Health Veterinary Laboratories Agency] and the findings of contiguous tests which are currently taking place and which may provide some clues as to how this cattle herd in Cumbria came to be infected."

Mr Craig said the incident should be placed "in context with what's happening in other areas of the country".

He said: "The North West does not have a problem in its cattle. This type of herd breakdown is extremely rare."

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