HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) announced on Friday, July 9, a cow in a herd on Molokai was infected with bovine tuberculosis(bTB); a contagious, communicable animal disease that can infect humans.

The last time bTB was detected in a cattle herd in Hawaii was on Molokai in 1997, according to HDOA officials.

Officials said the infected cow came from a herd in Ho`olehua in the central part of Molokai. The cow was briefly pastured in Mapulehu on the east end of Molokai due to the severe drought, HDOA officials said.

The recently infected cow was one of 30 in the herd that was tested on June 22, 2021. The balance of the population in question tested negative, according to the HDOA, but the entire herd will be depopulated to ensure the infection does not remain in Molokai’s cow population.

HDOA officials are working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to create a cleanup plan to depopulate the infected herd and pay indemnity to its owner.

“While the detection of bovine tuberculosis has only been confirmed in one animal to date, it is the foremost priority for the department to isolate and control this disease before it can spread to other cattle herds on the island. Of all people, Molokai ranchers understand the importance of containing this disease and we appreciate their continued cooperation and assistance.”

Phyllis Shimabukuro-Geiser, chairperson of the Hawai`i Board of Agriculture.

Sporadic outbreaks of bTB have occurred in cattle herds on Molokai since the 1940s, officials said. Hawaii attained “bovine tuberculosis free” status from the USDA in 1993, but it was suspended in 1997 when a 10-year-old cow on Molokai was infected with bTB.

The 10-year-old cow’s entire herd was depopulated and Hawaii regained “bovine tuberculosis free” status in 1998. Cows are the primary hosts of bTB, but the disease is known to occur in humans in countries with poor disease-control programs, according to HDOA officials.

Since the 1997 infection, officials have been monitoring cattle herds and wildlife on Molokai. The herds are tested annually and laboratory testing is conducted on wildlife turned in by hunters, officials said.

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