CDC study indicates humans at risk for tuberculosis after contact with infected deer

77-year-old Michigan man tested positive for TB in 2017

DETROIT – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study last week regarding a 77-year-old Michigan man who was diagnosed with pulmonary tuberculosis that had been transmitted to him by a deer.

The man lived in the northeastern Lower Peninsula where there have been confirmed cases of Mycobacterium bovis (bovine tuberculosis) in free-ranging deer. There has been statewide surveillance for M. bovis since 1995. In 2017, 1.4 percent of deer tested from the region were culture-positive for M. bovis.

"The patient had rheumatoid arthritis and was taking 5 mg prednisone daily; he had no history of travel to countries with endemic tuberculosis, no known exposure to persons with tuberculosis, and no history of consumption of unpasteurized milk," the study said.

The man was diagnosed with the disease in May 2017. The CDC believes the man was exposed to the disease through hunting activities and had a reactivation of infection as a pulmonary disease in 2017.

M. bovis is a mycobacterium that can cause TB disease in people. It's most commonly found in cattle and other animals like bison, elk and deer. TB can affect the lungs, lymph nodes and other parts of the body, according to the CDC. However, not everyone infected with M. bovis will become sick and those who don't get sick have what's called a latent TB infection. People with LTBI do not feel sick and cannot spread TB to others but are at risk for getting TB.

Click here to learn more about Mycobacterium bovis.

The CDC said since 1998, 73 infected cattle herds have been identified in Michigan. The CDC said hunters should wear protective equipment when field-dressing deer. Hunters who submit deer heads that test positive for M. bovis could be at higher risk for infection.

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Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.