Potentially Fatal Disease In Humans Increasing In Hunter Feral Pig Population

A disease that is potentially deadly to humans has been identified in animals across the Upper Hunter for the first time in decades.

The strain of Brucellosis, Brucella Suis, is affecting feral pigs and some hunting dogs around Merriwa and can be passed on to humans via direct contact with tissues or body fluids, or by eating undercooked meat, from an infected animal.

Feral pig hunting is the number one risk for contracting Brucellosis in the state. Pig hunting dogs are also at risk, and can potentially pass on the infection to other dogs and humans.

Hunter Local Land Services District Vets are urging anyone who hunts or comes into contact with the animals to take extra care with their personal hygiene and safety.

Hunter District Vet Jim Kerr says common sense precautions such as wearing personal protective equipment and practicing safe slaughtering methods can keep locals and their families safe.

“You’ve got to at least be careful… some PPE, and a modicum of care with your hygiene when you’re pig hunting,” he said.

NSW Health’s Fact Sheet outlines some of the symptoms of Burcellosis , which typically starts out like a flu.

This may include fever, headache, weakness, drenching sweats, chills, weight loss, joint and muscle pain, and generalised aches. Inflammation of the liver and spleen, and gastrointestinal or respiratory symptoms may also occur. In males, the testicles may become inflamed.

Rarely, the valves inside the heart may become infected and this can be fatal.

The symptoms usually start 5-60 days after a person has been infected.

The infection typically lasts for days or months but can occasionally last for a year or more and may recur.

Disease may be mild and some people get no symptoms of infection.

Pregnant women and their babies are at risk of developing severe disease. If left untreated, infection may cause birth defects, spontaneous abortion or fetal death.

Mr Kerr said pregnant women should take particular care to avoid contact with the disease.

Treatment usually involves a combination of antibiotics for at least six weeks. Occasionally, antibiotics may need to continue for months. But despite treatment, Brucellosis can recur.

Landholders impacted by feral pigs are being urged to report sightings to Local Land Services Biosecurity Officers on 1300 795 299 or via FeralScan.

More information on the impacts of Brucellosis for humans can be found here, and for dogs here.

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