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NATURAL RESOURCE SCIENCE AND MANAGEMENT IN THE WEST

A Brief History of Brucellosis

Aug 24, 2015

~1887 – British physician David Bruce investigated a mysterious illness that killed four soldiers on the Mediterranean island of Malta

1894 – First cases of “Malta fever” reported in the U.S., mostly in soldiers returning from overseas

1897 – Bernard Bang studied “contagious abortion,” nicknamed “Bang’s disease,” in cattle in Denmark

1902-1905 – Game warden Charles Jesse “Buffalo” Jones released bison captured as calves and raised in captivity (and possibly infected by milk from domestic cows) into Yellowstone National Park to restore the wild herd

1905 – Greek physician Themistokles Zammit determined the Maltese goat passed Malta fever to people through unpasteurized milk

1912 – National Elk Refuge established south of Yellowstone to compensate for loss of historic winter range in Jackson Hole

1917 – Bang’s disease detected in Yellowstone National Park bison

1918 – American microbiologist Alice Evans connected the organism responsible for Bang’s disease to that for Malta fever, and Karl Meyer, a San Francisco veterinary scientist, proposed grouping the organisms under the genus Brucella, named for Dr. David Bruce

1926 – Forty-six cases of brucellosis reported in humans in the U.S.; the disease infected tens of thousands more over the following decade

1929 – Wyoming Game and Fish Department began feeding elk in western Wyoming

1934 – USDA launched the Cooperative State-Federal Brucellosis Eradication Program, which used test-and-slaughter to slowly clean the disease out of livestock herds over about 70 years; the program has cost over $3.5 billion and still continues today

1941 – Strain 19 vaccine, an accidental discovery by USDA Bureau of Animal Industry veterinarian John M. Buck, was licensed for use in cattle; vaccination became a major part of the brucellosis eradiation effort

1981 – U.S. Department of Agriculture defined Class Free and Class A-C statuses and declared states could be divided into two areas with separate classifications

1985 – Wyoming declared free of brucellosis in livestock herds; began vaccinating feedground elk with Strain 19

1989 – Twenty-seven states declared free of brucellosis in livestock herds

1996 – USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service licensed RB51 vaccine for use in cattle to replace Strain 19, which caused false positive brucellosis test results

November 2003 – Infected cattle found in Sublette County, Wyoming

February 2004 – Wyoming lost its Class Free brucellosis status, Governor Dave Freudenthal convened a Brucellosis Coordination Team, which met monthly and produced 28 recommendations

September 2006 – Wyoming regained Class Free status

February 2008 – All fifty states, Puerto Rico, and Virgin Islands reached Class Free status for the first time since brucellosis eradication efforts began

September 2008 – Montana lost its Class Free status, and Idaho and Wyoming soon followed

2009-2011 – USDA and states defined Designated Surveillance Areas (DSA) in at-risk areas overlapping infected wildlife herd units in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho where livestock brucellosis testing requirements are stricter than elsewhere in the states

2010 – Brucellosis detected in livestock herds in Park County, Wyoming

2012-present – Brucellosis seroprevalence detected in blood samples from hunter-killed elk in the Bighorn Mountains and areas of Montana outside the DSA

2015 – Ballistics manufacturer stopped producing the bio-bullets used for feedground elk vaccination; Wyoming Game and Fish used the last of their bio-bullets

 

This timeline is a sidebar to the story The Feedgrounds Conundrum.

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