Elephants can carry tuberculosis; seven employees infected at Oregon Zoo

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Seven employees at the Oregon Zoo contracted tuberculosis from elephants, though extensive testing says public is not at risk
By Jason Spencer | Jan 09, 2016
A new report shows that people are not the only ones who can transfer tuberculosis. And while the public may have been unaware that these gentle giants could spread the disease, zoos have known about it for years.

According to Reuters, elephants are responsible for infecting seven zoo employees with tuberculosis. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that workers were infected with a latent form of the disease in 2013. The workers didn't show any symptoms and weren't contagious.

This information is being released nearly three years later after a judge ordered the CDC to release documents to the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). This comes after a lawsuit by PETA to release the information as infected elephants can spread the disease to other elephants and, as seen in the case of the Oregon Zoo employees, humans.

Dr. Jennifer Vines, the deputy health officer for Multnomah County, stated that there wasn't a big concern for members of the public to contract the disease. "Throughout we have never felt the general public is at risk, our contact investigation was very thorough," said Vines to KGW.com.

Backing up her investigation was the Oregon Zoo's elephant curator Bob Lee, who emphasized how important it was that both elephants and employees undergo regular tuberculosis tests.

"Elephants across the country have a yearly test," said Lee to Komo News. "Almost all professionals who work with elephants and other animals have yearly tests."

And even with the low risk and extensive testing, Vine reiterated that the zoo treated the case with the utmost care.

"We took extra precautions to be very careful and put in place even more restrictive measures to take a low risk and make it even lower for the general public," she said.


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