Suspected Brucellosis Investigation in British Columbia

This article was last updated on April 16, 2022

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has launched a disease investigation on two farms in British Columbia, after three beef cows from these premises were classified as “reactors” on brucellosis tests done during routine slaughter testing in the United States.

While brucellosis can cause a disease in humans called “undulant fever”, human cases are rare in Canada. Sanitary practices in slaughterhouses and pasteurization of milk are effective in preventing the vast majority of human cases of brucellosis. Human infection can be prevented by avoiding unpasteurized dairy products (e.g. milk, cheese) and by careful handling of infected animals and their tissues.

As a precautionary measure, animals on both farms have been placed under quarantine, and are being tested for brucellosis. The CFIA has launched a comprehensive investigation, which includes verifying the health status of the herds and tracing the movement of animals on and off of both premises. The original samples from the U.S. are also being sent to the CFIA laboratory in Ottawa—a World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) reference laboratory for brucellosis—for further testing. Results are expected within a week.

As a result of this incident, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has placed temporary import restrictions on certain cattle and bison from British Columbia. Until further notice, all sexually intact cattle and bison that have resided in B.C. since March 25, 2010, must be tested for brucellosis with negative results and have this certified by the CFIA prior to export. This requirement does not apply to cattle and bison exported for immediate slaughter. Most trading partners already require testing of live animals for brucellosis prior to export, including several U.S. states.

Brucellosis was last detected in cattle in Canada in 1989.

The CFIA is committed to protecting animal health and the viability of Canada’s livestock sector. In all cases where federally reportable diseases are suspected or confirmed, the goal is to minimize disruptions, while respecting domestic and international obligations to take appropriate and prudent control measures.

Brucellosis is a contagious disease that can affect many species of mammals, particularly cattle, swine, bison, elk, deer, goats, sheep, horses and other ruminants.

Edited by: Tapa Menon

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