BRUSSELS, Aug 7 (Reuters) - Veterinary authorities have had to cull cattle infected with bovine tuberculosis at a dairy farm in eastern Belgium and are now testing animals at some 150 other farms, the Belgian food safety regulator said on Friday.
Bovine tuberculosis is a chronic bacterial disease of cattle that occasionally affects other mammal species. It can spread to humans through the ingestion of unpasteurised milk.
“For the moment the investigation is limited to Belgium but I don’t exclude expanding this investigation abroad if needed,” a spokesman for regulator FAVV said.
The spokesman did not say how many sick cows had been put down at the affected farm. He said investigators were testing cattle elsewhere because they were believed to have had some contact with the affected dairy farm.
Authorities have banned the transfer of animals from the farms under investigation until the results are back, the spokesman added.
Controlling bovine tuberculosis is especially difficult in areas where cows can come into contact with wildlife.
In 2013 British authorities culled thousands of badgers in southwest England to halt the spread of the disease. Similar efforts were made in New Zealand where possums are blamed for passing the disease to cattle.
Bovine tuberculosis is now rare in Belgium, though there were nine cases in 2013, state broadcaster RTBF reported. (Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; Editing by Gareth Jones)