Government vets have been criticised for failing to warn practising veterinarians about the possibility of human infection after the emergence of bovine tuberculosis in cats.
Addressing chief veterinary officers from each of the four UK administrations during a Q&A session at BSAVA Congress, Basingstoke practitioner Charlotte Clough complained that government colleagues had not alerted staff in local practices to a cluster of cases of Mycoplasma bovis infection in nine cats around the Newbury area, which also resulted in two human cases.
She said: ”I understand that the last of the cases occurred in March 2013 but the first I knew was when I read about it last week in the Daily Mail.”
Alick Simmons, deputy chief veterinary officer for the UK, acknowledged that it was “unfortunate and regrettable” if neighbouring practices had not been told about those cases until they were reported in the Veterinary Record (March 29, 2014), with accompanying advice to colleagues from the CVO.
Veterinary Record, the journal of the British Veterinary Association, is delivered weekly to 10,767 BVA members.
Mr Simmons also noted there is an established route for the transmission of the pathogen to cats and then on to their owners, and said: “For anyone to suggest that this was the first time that the profession was made aware of tuberculosis in cats in the UK would be misleading.”
However, Mrs Clough insisted that with such rare conditions it was important that the government keep practitioners informed of developments to ensure they are alert to the possibility of a potential animal and human health risk. Specifically, she felt an email message could have been sent to neighbouring practices long before the paper appeared in the scientific literature.
On a related topic, the Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA) was accused by another congress delegate of showing “a lack of interest in the possibility of feline tuberculosis” when she approached it for advice.
In reply, Mr Simmons acknowledged that government laboratories are required to take samples from companion animals where there is reasonable suspicion of a notifiable disease infection and promised to ensure that government labs do provide appropriate advice to colleagues.