Tuberculosis screening for captive elk, red deer, white-tailed and fallow deer, and reindeer is now a one-step process, according to the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC), but the change in screening methods and rules will require that animal blood samples can only be collected by Designated Accredited Veterinarians (DAV).

The TB-Stat Pak and the Dual Path Platform (DPP) Test as a secondary test were recently approved for field use by the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) which notified TAHC officials the procedures would be recognized by federal authorities to facilitate the movement of the captive species. Not all states have agreed to accept the test yet, so cervid producers should check with all the states involved in any planned transfer of animals.

TAHC officials say the advantage to using the TB-Stat Pak is that it requires a one handling event. Under the previous screening method, the single cervical test (SCT), the handling of cervids on two different occasions was required, one for tuberculin injection and the second for interpreting the test results.

Texas State Veterinarian Dr. Dee Ellis says the performance of the Stat-Pak is not significantly different than the single cervical test (SCT) in uninfected red deer, elk, whitetail deer, fallow deer and reindeer. The Stat-Pak appears to detect the same or a higher percentage of naturally infected elk, red deer and white-tailed deer, when compared to the SCT. There are too few naturally infected reindeer to evaluate the performance of the test in this species.

Ellis says TAHC is working to make all necessary changes to its policies and procedures so that producers may take advantage of these new tests.

USDA says the availability of a more rapid testing option that requires only one handling event not only benefits the cervid industry, but also promotes additional testing, providing the TB program with new information on the identification and control of TB.

Bovine TB, caused by M. bovis, can be transmitted from livestock, including captive cervids, to humans and other animals. The cooperative Federal-State-Industry effort to eradicate bovine TB in the United States has made significant progress since the program’s inception in 1917. The disease has nearly been eliminated from the livestock population of the United States, but concerns remain for the growing captive cervid industry.

Many consider Bovine Tuberculosis as one of the great animal and public health achievements in the United States. However, the ultimate goal of eradication remains elusive as animal health officials continue to detect TB sporadically in traditional livestock herds as well.

In cervid, as with cattle, TB is difficult to diagnose with clinical signs alone. In the early stages of TB, clinical signs are not visible. In later stages, clinical signs may include: emaciation, lethargy, weakness, anorexia, low-grade fever, and pneumonia with a chronic, moist cough. Lymph node enlargement may also be present.

TB can be passed to a herd by infected cattle, cervids, swine, and humans. It is spread through the respiration of TB bacteria aerosols, through feed or watering sites contaminated with saliva and other discharges, or by drinking raw, unpasteurized milk from infected animals. The risk of exposure is greatest in enclosed areas, such as barns with poor ventilation.

The newly approved testing methods are based on serological testing, and therefore a blood sample must be collected from the animal. Only Designated Accredited Veterinarians (DAVs) who have received training specific to sample collection and submission are authorized to submit samples for testing. If your veterinarian is not already a DAV, they can become a DAV through additional training from their regional TAHC office.

Effective February 4, testing for cervid samples using the Cervid TB Stat-Pak at the National Veterinary Services Laboratory began. It is currently the required method of testing.