Ill Deer and Cows Being Evaluated

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Three cows and two captive deer on three premises in Cherokee County, Texas, are being held under movement restriction by the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC), pending evaluation and diagnosis of the animals' illness, signs of which have been reported to include swollen tongues and heads and stiff necks. Veterinarians from the TAHC, the state's regulatory agency for livestock and poultry health, and a veterinarian from NASA, are examining the animals to determine why they became ill.

"Debris from the Columbia space shuttle was found on the captive deer premise, and we want to learn if the animal might have licked it or come into close contact with a chemical residue from the pieces. According to official reports, more than 600 pieces of debris have been found in Cherokee County, and we don't know if there is a link between the animals' illness and the shuttle debris," said Dr. James Lenarduzzi, acting executive director for the TAHC. "A full evaluation is underway to determine the cause of this illness, as we must know if we have a disease situation, or if this is a response to a hazardous chemical substance. The animals will not be allowed to move from the premises until we know they do not pose a health risk to other livestock or to human health."

Dr. Lenarduzzi urged livestock owners to work with their private veterinary practitioners if their animals become ill. He reminded producers and veterinarians that the TAHC operates a 24-hour hotline for reporting unusual signs of illness or unexpected death losses in livestock and poultry. To make a report, call the TAHC at 1-800-550-8242. A veterinarian is on call at all times to take reports and initiate a disease investigation.