Is brucellosis present in the NT pig population?

What is brucellosis?

Brucellosis is a disease caused by the Brucella bacteria. Different types of Brucella bacteria usually infect different animals. Brucellas found within Australia are Brucella ovis (sheep) and Brucella suis (pigs). Exotic to Australia are Brucella melitensis (goats, sheep and camels), Brucella canis (dogs), Brucella ceti (seals), Brucella pinnepedialis (whales, dolphins and porpoises) and now also exotic to Australia since eradication in 1989, Brucella abortus (cattle). Brucellosis is a notifiable disease in animals and all forms must be reported to the Chief Inspector.

Within Australia, Brucella suis has been identified throughout the wild pig population within New South Wales and Queensland. It has not been previously reported in NT pigs; however there has recently been some evidence to suggest possible infection in people (pig hunters). DPIF is currently reviewing survey options together with the Department of Health and Northern Australian Quarantine Strategy (NAQS) to determine whether there has been a recent introduction of Brucella suis into the NT.

Brucella suis can be transmitted to humans and dogs through contact with infected pigs. The source of infection is via cuts or open wounds or contact with body fluids of infected pigs. Pig hunters and their dogs are most at risk. It is a significant disease of humans. This disease is rarely transmitted from human to human.

What are symptoms in pigs?

Symptoms of infection can take up to two months to show. Signs may include reproductive failure such as abortions, birth of still born or weak piglets, or physical features such as lameness, swollen joints, incoordination and hind leg paralysis. Sows can develop infections of the uterus and have vaginal discharge. Boars may develop swollen or inflamed testicles.

What are symptoms in people?

Symptoms of infection usually occur 5-60 days once exposed although can occur up to six months later. Infections last either days or months with a chance of relapses. Symptoms may include: fever, sweating, lethargy, loss of appetite, headaches and back pain. Spontaneous abortions can occur in pregnant women who have been exposed.

What are symptoms in dogs?

Dogs exposed to infection can remain symptom free and still continue to be alert with no obvious signs of infection. Dogs that do show symptoms may show fever, enlarged testicles, enlarged prostate, back pain, lameness, vomiting, lethargy, enlarged lymph nodes or blood in urine

What to do?

If these symptoms occur in livestock contact your Regional Vet or Livestock Biosecurity Officer.

Last updated: 24 June 2016