January 2010
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Feral Hog Hunters Cautioned About Swine Brucellosis

The growing popularity of hunting feral hogs in Alabama brings a growing risk of contracting illnesses like swine brucellosis, according to the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) which is urging hunters to take precautions when field dressing the animal.

The ADCNR advises all hunters who field dress hogs to wear gloves, and Conservation Commissioner Barnett Lawley said heavy, rubber gloves are preferred due to the possibility of nicks from a knife.

"After field dressing the hog, hands should be washed with soap and hot water. Swine brucellosis does not affect the edibility of the meat. As with all pork, it should be thoroughly cooked," he said. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends cooking pork to an internal temperature of 160o F.

"As we have been saying for years, hunters should be aware of the potential threat and use common sense safety precautions," said Alabama Wildlife Chief Gary Moody.

Swine brucellosis is an infectious disease of pigs that can be contracted by humans. Because it can have a long incubation time, immediate symptoms may not be present. Although few humans die of infection, the disease is often chronic and debilitating.

The feral hog (Sus scrofa) is a non-native species brought to the Southeast centuries ago by Spanish explorers, but has become a nuisance for landowners, farmers and rural residents as their population has increased.

Swine brucellosis is caused by the bacterium Brucella suis. Humans can get swine brucellosis through handling infected tissues of wild pigs. Brucellosis bacteria are found in bodily fluids, concentrating in reproductive organs and milk. The bacteria can enter the human body through cuts, nicks, abrasions or other breaks in the skin.

In 2007, eight Florida hunters were diagnosed with swine brucellosis, and a Texas hunter recently contracted the disease when he did not wear gloves while cleaning a hog.

Because swine brucellosis can have a long incubation time, immediate symptoms may not be present. Although few humans die of infection, the disease is often chronic and debilitating.

Gary Moody is the Alabama Wildlife Chief of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.