This page will focus on the disease risk associated with pig hunting. This is not to suggest the risk is necessarily high, however, it is important to be aware of the risk wherever it falls on the scale.
In most cases, reasonable hygiene will be enough to lower risk levels but we have included as much information as we can find to provide hunters access to independent advice and good practice guidelines.
Brucellosis in dogs
Brucellosis is a disease caused by infection with a type of bacteria (Brucella). This disease is common in many parts of the world, but it is relatively rare in Australia. Brucella bacteria infect a range of animals.
Brucella suis usually infects pigs. Brucella suis infection is widespread in Queensland’s feral pig population and it has also been detected in the feral pig population in northern New South Wales ).
Brucella suis can be transmitted to people from animals.
This means hunters can contract the disease from pigs and so can hunters' dogs,
Attached is a Fact Sheet prepared by the NSW Department of Primary Industries.
There is also an excerpt from the Australian Veterinary Journal (Clinical management of Brucella suis infection in dogs and implications for public health) which details treatment options for dogs to consider prior to opting for euthanasia.
Click on the following links to learn more:
Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease of humans and animals. It is caused by Leptospira bacteria that are excreted in urine from infected animals including mice, rats, cattle, pigs and dogs.
- Common initial symptoms of leptospirosis include fever, severe headache, sore muscles, chills, vomiting, and red eyes. Symptoms usually come on suddenly. These symptoms can mimic other diseases, such as influenza, and diagnosis is often difficult. People with leptospirosis may have some or all of these symptoms. Some people can also develop long-lasting effects following leptospirosis infection.
- Some people with leptospirosis go on to develop severe disease. This can include kidney failure, jaundice (yellow colouration of the skin and eyeballs which indicates liver disease), and bleeding and respiratory complications. Other complications including meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) can also occur. Most people who develop severe disease require hospitalisation and severe leptospirosis can sometimes be fatal.
- Symptoms usually develop after 5 to 14 days (can range from 2 to 30 days) following infection and last from a few days to 3 weeks or longer.
More info here:
IN THEIR OWN WORDS...MEMBERS TELL THEIR STORIES
We can be the sentinels in disease detection
PICTURED ABOVE: Bianca Pollard collects a range of samples from pigs to help build a picture of the disease load in her hunting area.
By APDHA member Bianca Pollard
So, let’s get the disease conversation going.
And I want to talk about diseases spread by feral animals.
I focus on feral animals as many domestic livestock owners already know too well about infectious diseases in herds.
That’s why they choose to vaccinate.
Coming out of the covid pandemic, we have all heard or read about the hot topic of vaccinations, and I’ve been on the forefront of vaccinating humans on a mass scale.
I am no expert, but I’ve worked in medicine for close to 20 years, and I’ve contracted Leptospirosis and Ross River Fever from living an outdoor life. It was not pretty, I can tell you.
Leptospirosis had me hospitalised with a temperature of 41deg C. They put me in an ice bath to prevent brain damage. I felt like my body had been run over by a road train.
I have also had, in my career, the pleasure of working with some amazing infectious disease experts in the Northern Territory and Far North Queensland and that has opened my eyes to ways in which many of these infectious diseases are spread.
In relation to the spread of disease, the first thing that comes to mind for most people is mosquitoes. Well, those mozzies are definitely the main culprit, but pigs and buffalo are up there too.
You see, feral pigs and buffalo don’t line up with the rest of the cattle for vaccination. They roam from property to property and hide out in many of our national parks or among other livestock. I am currently working in Far North Queensland and managing a property for feral animal control. The problem I have is the pigs are roaming from the national park into the property I manage and back. Either side of the property, commercial brahman cattle herds are run, so I have been working closely with an old school trapper from those adjoining properties. He has taught me how to collect samples for the government to keep track of what diseases these pigs are carrying.
Many of the pigs that I or my dogs have pulled up, have either had mange or deformities of some kind, but some diseases are not obvious to the naked eye. This is where the sampling comes in.
When I take a sample, there is a three-step process. Firstly I take a blood sample by simply absorbing the blood with the absorbent tissue. Second is a swab from inside the mouth to collect and, lastly (and this is not pleasant), it’s a swab from the rectum of the pig. I fill out a few details on the form, for example boar or sow, rough age, the date I collected the sample. I then hand my samples over to my trapper who sends them away for testing.
So just to give you an idea of what zoonotic diseases feral pigs can carry, there’s Leptospirosis, Q fever and Brucellosis suis. (Zoonotic diseases are diseases that can transmit from animals to humans). Other diseases associated with pigs include Japanese encephalitis (JEV) hepatitis E(HEV) Nipah virus (NIV) and swine influenza, just to name a few.
So, how as pig hunters, do we contract some of these diseases?
For me, I contracted Leptospirosis from the dust that I inhaled from a property. Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease spread through the urine of infected animals. When these animals are walking along tracks or dirt roads, they urinate and when we come along in our ute or buggy, bacteria in the dust can enter our system through the lining of the mouth, nose and through the eyes.
Other ways of contracting it can be through exposure to water, soil or mud contaminated with urine, or we can even be exposed to it while butchering a beast. Leptospirosis is more common in warmer tropical climates, but cases can increase after tropical cyclones or floods through the movement of contaminated water.
So, what does this all mean to you? Well, just like you, I am a feral pig hunter. I believe the only way the government will take note of the importance of hunters in managing the feral pig population is when pigs have spread infectious diseases to the live export industry, resulting in a massive loss of revenue for the economy. I think only then, when all control methods come into focus, will the government take seriously the contribution of pig hunters.
So, until we can get a national pig database of samples from hunters across Australia to see how many diseases there are and measure potential transmission rates, all feral pig hunters need to have in the back of their minds that many feral pigs we touch, could be a zoonotic disease risk to us.
My dogs have been vaccinated for Leptospirosis and you can consult your local vet for these vaccines to help protect your team.
You, as a hunter, should remember every pig you bring down is another step in stopping the spread to disease into our live export industry.
That’s worth a big “Thank You”.
For any more information on zoonotic disease in your area, your local government or DPI staff should have information on their website, or you can ask your local parks and wildlife ranger in your area.
PICTURED ABOVE: Samples packaged and ready to send for study.