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    • Last updated Aug 1
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brucellosis in NSW putting humans at risk

Posted By Jesse Farr     Aug 1    

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There is growing concern in New South Wales about a disease that is spread by feral pigs and can cause infertility among humans and dogs. Swine brucellosis is widespread in parts of Queensland and infects pig-hunting dogs, but can also spread to humans through blood contact. In Australia, the infection is only common in feral pigs, not domestic pigs. University of Sydney Epidemiology lecturer Siobhan Mor said the disease was being detected in parts of north-western NSW and one dog has even been diagnosed in Sydney. She said they wanted to better understand how it was spreading and make people aware of the risks. "We're seeing an increasing number of dogs that are being infected, and there's certainly a need to understand and conduct further research on the feral pig side to understand what the distribution looks like," Dr Mor said. "At the moment, the big unknown is the feral pig situation, we don't know how much this disease is spreading within the feral pig population and that's really the next direction that we need to go in." Dogs infected while hunting or eating wild pig meat People who handle pig carcasses are at risk as well anyone whose blood becomes contaminated with the blood or tissue of a pig or dog carrying the pathogen, Dr Mor said. She said everyone needed to be aware of the risks. "The dog that was diagnosed in Sydney had an unknown exposure to feral pigs, because it was acquired from a pound at a very young age and was subsequently managed down in Sydney before it was diagnosed," she said. Areas such as Moree and Tamworth in the state's north have been identified as hotspots where dogs have been diagnosed with swine brucellosis, but Dr Mor said there was the possibility of it being carried further west. "There's also less health coverage out that way, too, so it's a little bit harder for people to take their dogs to the vet and get diagnosed," she said. "The same goes for people themselves, to go to a medical practitioner and get diagnosed, so it wouldn't surprise me at all if we were seeing cases outside those areas." A spokesman for the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) said it was expected the dogs diagnosed in NSW had made close contact with infected feral pigs while hunting or eating uncooked meat of wild pigs. "The department has and will continue to engage with the local veterinarians to ensure they have the information and support necessary to manage the small number of cases," the DPI spokesman said. "DPI also continues to work and collaborate with NSW Health and Local Land Services to understand the risk posed by the disease and how best to manage it with the community."

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