WASHINGTON – The US Dept. of Agriculture recently proposed creating surveillance standards for bovine tuberculosis (TB) and brucellosis.

The new standard would mean states and tribal nations would no longer be categorized by the disease prevalence, and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) would no longer rely solely on whole-herd depopulation as a means of controlling the spread of disease.

Brucellosis and bovine tuberculosis are contagious diseases caused by bacteria that affect cattle, bison, deer, elk and other animals. The presence of these diseases negatively affects animal health, animal production and international trade, APHIS said.

Depopulation is the sole means used to control the spread of these diseases. But APHIS said a new standard is necessary because livestock herds are larger today compared to herd sizes in the past when the rule was first developed. Using whole-herd culls are no longer feasible. The proposed rule calls for APHIS to establish standards for disease surveillance, epidemiological investigations and affected herd management.

This means that states and tribes would develop and implement an animal health plan outlining how they will meet those standards, APHIS explained. States and tribes would be categorized by whether they have an animal health plan, whether APHIS has approved this plan and whether they are following the protocols outlined in their plan. Additionally, infected herds would be tested on a periodic basis, and any animals that test positive would be removed from the herd.

“By using program compliance rather than disease prevalence to determine statuses in the proposed rule, states and tribes will no longer run the risk of status downgrades and state-wide restrictions and testing requirements when sporadic cases may appear,” APHIS said. “Rather, they can focus their disease control efforts on specifically designated herds or areas.”

The agency noted that wildlife in certain parts of the United States can carry brucellosis and bovine TB and can reintroduce them into domestic herds of any species.