What is Suspicious Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis in animals and humans

Animal disease

In cattle, the time between infection and the appearance of the first signs of the disease can be months to years. In a late phase of the disease, tuberculosis in cattle appears as a chronic, debilitating disease with enlarged lymph nodes, fever attacks, decline in milk yield and emaciation. However, these symptoms can also occur with other diseases. The diagnosis of bovine tuberculosis cannot be conclusively made without clarification in the laboratory.

Wild animals (especially red deer, wild boar and badgers) can be so-called "reservoirs" of tuberculosis pathogens. This means that the disease can, in part, persist unnoticed for a long time in the free-living populations and thus repeatedly lead to infections in cattle. A transmission of tuberculosis pathogens between wild animals and cattle is possible in both directions through direct animal contact or through contaminated water or feed.

Contagion and spread

The causative agents of tuberculosis are different types of mycobacteria. Cattle are mainly carriers of the Mycobacterium bovis or the Mycobacterium caprae, while Mycobacterium tuberculosis occurs in humans.

Tuberculosis can be transmitted through direct contact with animals or through contaminated water or food. All mammals and humans can become infected. Bovine tuberculosis can be transmitted from animals to humans. This is most likely to happen through intensive contact between humans and animals at an advanced stage of the disease. Conversely, in rare cases, humans can also infect cattle.

Tuberculosis is common in mammals and humans around the world. In many industrialized countries, tuberculosis in farm animals could be contained through intensive control programs. In recent years, tuberculosis has been increasingly found in cattle and wild animals in Europe.

There have also been isolated cases of tuberculosis in cattle in Switzerland. However, Switzerland is still considered tuberculosis-free. The database of animal diseases in Switzerland provides an overview of the epidemic situation in Switzerland.

Tuberculosis has not yet been detected in native wild animals (as of May 2015).

What to do?

Combating bovine tuberculosis is a tedious process. The disease is often not recognized for a long time and cannot be diagnosed immediately and clearly in living animals.

Tuberculosis is an animal disease that has to be eradicated and therefore notifiable. Anyone who keeps or looks after animals must report suspected cases to the herd veterinarian.

Meat controls in the slaughterhouses are very important for monitoring tuberculosis. These controls are regulated by law and are carried out by the cantonal enforcement bodies. The Fleischschauer takes samples from animals with suspicious signs of tuberculosis and has them examined in the laboratory.

The spread of bovine tuberculosis in wild animals in the Alpine region is also increasingly monitored. According to animal disease legislation, hunters and gamekeepers are obliged to report suspicious changes in wild animals that indicate tuberculosis to an official veterinarian.

The disease in humans

Comprehensive information on tuberculosis in humans can be found on the website of the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) (see Further information> "Links").