In the past week, news surfaced that feral pigs in North Carolina have tested positive for Brucella suis, a bacteria that can be transmitted from feral pigs to humans, and from feral pigs to domestic pigs. About 9 percent of pigs in Johnson County and less than 1 percent of pigs tested at 13 other sites tested positive.
B. suis is transmitted when a pig ingests infected tissue or fluids, comes in contact with an infected pig, or consumes contaminated food or water. The real danger, researchers say, is a feral pig transmitting B. suis to the commercial pig population.
“The biggest public-health risk is to pork processors and hunters who field dress feral pigs,” said Suzanne Kennedy-Stoskopf, a North Carolina State research professor of wildlife infectious diseases, speaking of the process by which hunters remove an animal’s internal organs shortly after it’s been killed.
B. suis can be transmitted to humans by consuming undercooked meat from a feral pig or engaging in unsafe butchering practices. Prevention tips include wearing gloves while butchering a feral pig and ensuring that meat is cooked to the proper temperature. While cases are rare, symptoms of brucellosis in humans closely resemble those of the flu.
“Because clinical signs are so non-specific, it’s important to tell your physician if you have had any exposure to feral swine carcasses and meat,” said Kennedy-Stoskopf.
You can read the AVMA’s policy on brucellosis, which also details our brucellosis research priorities. The AVMA supports the Cooperative State-Federal Swine Brucellosis Eradication Program and related research.