Canada's food safety watchdog says more cases of bovine tuberculosis have been confirmed in southeastern Alberta.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says five new cases of the contagious bacterial disease have been found in cattle to bring the total number to six. All the positive animals were confirmed to have TB through CFIA testing.
Dr. Penny Greenwood, national manager of domestic disease control, said 34 farms in Alberta and two in Saskatchewan remain under quarantine, but that number could change.
"Subsequent to these new testing results, we are in the process of doing a risk assessment that will determine whether or not there are additional herds that need to be declared infected," she said Thursday in Ottawa.
Greenwood said all of the cases are from one infected herd found at three separate locations in Alberta.
She said all of the cattle from the herd are in the process of being removed from the premises and killed.
The agency said in an email that 18,000 animals are involved in the investigation but "that number may change."
The agency also said the increase in the number of infected animals has no effect on food safety or on the beef industry trade.
"These positive test results indicate transmission between animals has occured," said the agency. "The CFIA is currently conducting a risk assessment to determine how these results impact the investigation and whether or not additional herds may be declared infected."
There are no confirmed cases in Saskatchewan.
Bovine TB can be transmitted from infected animals to people, causing a condition similar to human tuberculosis, but the CFIA says the risk to the general population is very low.
"Any animal which show signs of disease, like the lesions associated with tuberculosis, is condemned and meat from that animal will not be sold for human consumption," the agency said.
Alberta Beef Producers, an association that represents 20,000 producers, said it's not good to have more confirmed cases, but it was not a surprise since the infectious disease involves one herd.
Rich Smith, the group's executive director, said the agency pays compensation to producers whose animals are destroyed, but there are no payments to ranchers who lose money because they can't sell or move their cattle due to the quarantine.
Smith said federal and provincial governments are considering an aid package for such producers.
"There needs to be financial support for these people caught in the quarantine," he said from Calgary. "This is truly a disaster for those producers affected by this case."
The United States Department of Agriculture reported the case of bovine TB to Canada in September after the disease was found in a slaughtered cow from a ranch near Jenner, about 250 kilometres east of Calgary.
The CFIA said the strain of TB identified is closely related to one that originated from cattle in central Mexico in 1997.
Bovine TB is a reportable disease in Canada and has been subject to a mandatory national eradication program since 1923.