September 19, 2023

Hawaii Department of Agriculture finds bovine tuberculosis in Molokai cow for first time in 25 years

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

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

Authorities said the infected cow came from a herd in Ho’olehua in the central part of Molokai. The cow was briefly grazed at Mapulehu at the eastern end of Molokai due to the severe drought, HDOA officials said.

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

HDOA officials are working with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to create a clean-up plan to depopulate the infected herd and pay compensation to its owner.

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

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

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

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

Since the 1997 infection, authorities have been monitoring cattle herds and wildlife in Molokai. Herds are tested annually and lab tests are performed on wildlife delivered by hunters, officials said.

Click here for more information on bTB.