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Oregon Zoo Workers Found To Get Infected Tuberculosis From Elephants

Update Date: Jan 11, 2016 01:02 PM EST

An inspection carried out by US health authorities on an Oregon Zoo revealed a tuberculosis (TB) outbreak- seven employees were found to have contracted a latent form of multispecies TB as a result of close contact with three elephants under their care in 2013.

In a disclosed report by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), health officials stated that the respiratory illness that infected the staff members was a non-contagious type after determining an absence of symptoms.

"The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has developed guidelines for the screening and diagnosis of TB in captive elephants, including annual trunk wash samples for mycobacterial culture. However, trunk-wash sample cultures, the standard for diagnosing active TB in elephants, are insensitive, and some cases of TB might be missed," the report said as quoted by Healio.

The report came to public light after a US Court order demanding CDC to hand over pertinent documents on TB in elephants to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

According to NBC News, the animal-rights group filed a lawsuit against the Health and Human Services Department, CDC's parent government agency, for failing to provide accurate report on the risks of transmissible diseases involving close elephant-to-human or elephant-to-elephant contacts.

The probe started in 2013 after a routine trunk wash revealed traces of Mycobacterium tuberculosis which was transmitted from elephants to their human caretakers either through tuberculin skin test (TST) or interferon gamma release assay (IGRA).

CDC findings wrote that the outbreak could have been prevented had there been enough research elephant-borne tuberculosis. As a result of the outbreak, health authorities insisted on increasing more serologic screenings, trunk washings, and more tuberculosis tests for both elephants and their human caretakers as mentioned by Business Insider.

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