Elephants blamed for TB outbreak at Tenn. refuge

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ATLANTA (AP) - A tuberculosis outbreak at a Tennessee elephant sanctuary in 2009 is being blamed on the pachyderms, even though some of the workers infected didn’t have close contact with the animals.

Elephants can carry TB, and there have been reports of them spreading it to people who touch them. But three of the eight employees who got TB didn’t work directly with the elephants, according to a report released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The three worked in an administrative building next to an elephant barn at the refuge in Hohenwald, about 85 miles southwest of Nashville. The 2,700-acre Elephant Sanctuary was founded in 1995 as a place for old, sick and rescued elephants.

Investigators believe the TB bacteria spread through the air when the elephants sneezed, or through pressure washing or dust from sweeping the barn.

The report from officials at the CDC, the Tennessee Department of Health and Vanderbilt University is in the CDC journal, Emerging Infectious Diseases. The authors call for better methods for diagnosing TB in elephants and more measures to protect employees from infection.

This week, officials with the sanctuary filed court papers claiming its co-founder and former CEO, Carol Buckley, created a hostile work environment and was lax about workers’ health at the site.

Sanctuary officials claimed Buckley failed to implement infection controls for elephant caregivers as regulators suggested before the workers tested positive for TB.

The claim was in response to a lawsuit filed by Buckley in October. Buckley _ who was fired last year _ is seeking $500,000 in damages and visitation rights to one of the sanctuary’s elephants.

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Online:

Report: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/EID/index.htm

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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