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Associated Press

HELENA (AP) - Gov. Judy Martz expressed alarm Friday over news that a small cattle herd near Yellowstone National Park in Idaho was under quarantine after testing positive for brucellosis.

The affected herd grazed on the same feeding grounds with a free-ranging elk herd in which the bacteria Brucella abortus was confirmed.

"This is a strong indication that our greatest concerns about the transmission of brucellosis from wildlife to domestic cattle herds is a very real possibility," Martz said in a press release. "This proves that we must step up our efforts to eradicate brucellosis in wildlife in the Greater Yellowstone Area."

Free-ranging elk in the Greater Yellowstone Area in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming are confirmed to have brucellosis, as are bison in Yellowstone National Park.

Martz said that if transmission of brucellosis from free-ranging elk to cattle is confirmed, potential exists that the same transmission could occur in any Montana cattle herd that roams with brucellosis-infected wildlife.

"This is a very direct human health issue, and its effects on the livestock industry in Montana can be devastating," Martz said.

Montana spent $35 million to reach brucellosis-free status in 1985. Idaho received its brucellosis-free status in 1990.

No brucellosis tests are required for cattle being transported between two brucellosis-free states.

But if a state loses its brucellosis-free status, the economic impact of sanctions by other states and countries could be in the millions of dollars, said Marc Bridges, executive officer of the state Livestock Department.

Ranchers in the Yellowstone area voluntarily vaccinate their cattle, even though Montana is brucellosis-free, Bridges said.

Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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