Based on a qualitative social science research methodology using semi-structured interviews, this paper examines the attitudes of farmers and veterinarians in Northern Ireland around the risk of acquiring tuberculosis caused by Mycobacterium bovis from infected cattle and drinking raw milk. This region has traditionally had one of the highest rates of bovine tuberculosis in the United Kingdom and among the highest in Europe. The research finds that the risk is often downplayed and considered so rare that it is no longer a significant public health risk due to the pasteurisation of milk and intensive surveillance on farms through systematic testing and removal of positive animals, as evidenced by the low recorded human incidence. Although the incidence of tuberculosis in humans caused by M bovis is only around 1% of all annual human tuberculosis cases, this paper argues that M bovis may be underestimated as a human pathogen and makes the case for a renewed perspective. Discourses surrounding the disease may need to be re-orientated to remind relevant stakeholders that human infection with M bovis is a hazard that needs to be treated with more caution on the front line of control.
- bovine tuberculosis
- public health
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Funding This study was funded by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) and the Dudley Stamp Memorial Trust.
Competing interests None declared.
Ethics approval The study received ethical approval from a research ethics committee at Durham University before commencement.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data availability statement No data are available.
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