CDC: Deer can spread tuberculosis to humans

Humans can contract tuberculosis from infected deer, according to the CDC's most recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report published Sept. 20.

The report features a case study of a 77-year-old Michigan man who tested positive for pulmonary tuberculosis in 2017. The man, a regular hunter for more than twenty years, had no exposure to people with tuberculosis, a disease caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium bovis.

The man resided in the northeastern lower peninsula of Michigan, an area with a low incidence of human tuberculosis. However, two earlier hunting-related human cases, later linked to deer, were reported in Michigan in 2002 and 2004. Health officials said the man likely contracted the illness by inhaling aerosols containing the bacteria while handling deer carcasses.

The CDC said that Michigan deer are hosts for tuberculosis bacteria, but noted that the transmission risk to humans is highly understudied. The CDC recommends hunters use protective equipment while field-dressing deer to prevent exposure to M. bovis and other diseases. 

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