CDC warning: Deer carrying tuberculosis strain can pass it to humans

A warning from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to hunters looking to bag a buck or doe: You could get a strain of tuberculosis from a deer if it is infected by the virus.

A case from 2017 that was just recently released says a 77-year-old man with no known exposure to a person with tuberculosis and who did not drink unpasteurized milk was diagnosed with pulmonary tuberculosis caused by Mycobacterium bovis, or M. bovis, the CDC announced last week.

The strain of tuberculosis, or bovine TB, can be found mostly in cattle, but also in animals like bison, elk and deer.

The man lived in a region with a low amount of human tuberculosis diagnoses, but where many deer test positive for the virus.

The man had been a hunter who field-dressed deer for 20 years, the CDC said. Field dressing is when you remove the internal organs of an animal after a successful hunt.

It is believed that the man may have breathed in the bacteria as he gutted a deer, according to the CDC report.

Officials are not sure when it may have happened over the two decades, but that the infection reactivated in 2017.

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There had been a few cases of bovine TB being found in humans in Michigan, once in 2004, when a hunter had a finger injury suffered during field-dressing a deer. There was another case in 2002, when like the 2017 case, experts believed the hunter breathed in the bacteria while field-dressing a carcass.

Because of the threat of transmission, the CDC is suggesting hunters use protective equipment while field-dressing a deer. They are also saying that if a deer head is submitted for TB testing and is positive for the disease, the hunter could be at a higher risk of the infection and should be screened.

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