New York State Finds Tuberculosis In Captive Fallow Deer

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets today reported the finding of tuberculosis (TB) in a captive red and fallow deer herd in Columbia County. The finding of TB is the result of routine disease testing conducted by the Department.

While commonly thought of as a lung disease, TB may affect nearly any organ in livestock. Animals infected with TB may at first look normal, but as the disease progresses, they may become thin and weak.

During routine testing, one fallow deer in the herd had a positive reaction to a TB screening test and was subsequently euthanized. A post mortem examination, along with laboratory testing at the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa confirmed the State's diagnosis. Further testing is currently underway to identify the specific strain of TB affecting the animal.


The presence of TB in this captive deer herd could threaten the health of wild deer populations, as well as the health of nearby domestic animal populations. Thus, the affected herd has been quarantined and animals on nearby farms will undergo testing over the next few weeks to ensure that the disease has been contained to this one herd.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will be looking for signs of TB in wild deer in and around Columbia County. DEC biologists intend to examine and collect samples from both road-killed and hunter-harvested deer to be sure the infection has not spread to New York's wild deer population.

Hunters or others who handle deer should take basic precautions, such as wearing protective gloves when field dressing deer and minimizing exposure to blood and other body fluids. When field dressing deer, hunters should be alert to abscesses in the lungs and rib cage, intestines, liver or stomach. Anyone seeing these signs or other unusual lesions in deer should contact DEC at 518-402-8965.

The New York State Department of Health (DOH) is also monitoring the situation. While strains of TB affecting deer can be transmitted to humans, there is no evidence of such in this situation.

New York State has worked for more than 70 years to earn and maintain a TB-free status for livestock. Sporadic outbreaks of TB have occurred since it was eradicated with the last case in cattle detected in 1992 and the last case in captive deer detected in 1995. Due to the limitations of current TB tests, depopulation of animals in infected herds is the only long term strategy to contain the disease. In both 1992 and 1995, the disease was successfully contained and eliminated in this manner, minimizing the impact of these isolated outbreaks to domestic livestock populations.