How animals can give you tuberculosis

Story highlights

  • Cattle infected with bovine tuberculosis are spreading infections to humans
  • Eating unpasteurized milk products form infected herds is a prime source of infection
  • Living and working in close proximity to infected animals also puts humans at risk

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(CNN)In 2014, an estimated 9.6 million people were infected by tuberculosis, according to the World Health Organization. Potentially fatal -- 1.5 million died from it the same year -- it is a disease known to be spread from human to human. But a subset of those contracting the disease today are getting it from infected animals.

Unbeknownst to many, tuberculosis can spread through your food, as well as the air, via infected animals.
The most common culprits? Infected cattle. The most common source? Their infected food products, such as milk and cheese.
    Cows and many other animals can harbor bovine tuberculosis (TB), a disease caused by infection with Mycobacterium bovis -- a close relative of the bacteria that cause human tuberculosis. Risk of human disease rises when animal infections aren't controlled.
    The highest rates of bovine TB cases in the United States are found along the U.S.- Mexican border, according to Colleen Scott, Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
    During a symposium at the 46th World Conference on Lung Health in Cape Town, South Africa, in early December, Scott presented new findings that showed that cases of bovine TB in the United States were found to be significantly higher among Hispanic communities. According to Scott, up to 4