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Hunters: Protect Yourself from Brucellosis

Brucellosis is an infectious disease caused by bacteria.

People can get the disease when they are in contact with infected animals or animal products contaminated with the bacteria.

If you are a hunter of particular wild animals, you may face an increased risk of brucellosis. This is because hunters are often exposed to the blood and organs of the animals they are hunting.

Animals That Can Put Hunters At Risk

Photo: Wild hogMany animals can cause you to get brucellosis. If you hunt particular animals, you may face an increased risk of infection.

Wild hogs are one such animal.

Hunting wild hogs is a popular sport among hunters. It is also a population control method supported by wildlife agencies, since wild hogs destroy farmland and crops and compete with native wildlife for food. When a wild hog gets the bacteria that cause brucellosis, it carries it for life.

Other game animals that can be infected with brucellosis in North America include:

  • Bison
  • Elk
  • Caribou/reindeer
  • Moose

In addition, predators such as bears and wolves may be exposed to brucellosis when they feed on infected animals.

How You Can Get Brucellosis from Animals

You can get sick if blood, fluid, or tissue from an infected animal comes in contact with your eyes, nose, mouth, or a skin cut.

This can happen when you are involved in hunting-related activities, such as:

  • Field dressing
  • Butchering
  • Eating undercooked meat

Protect Yourself from Brucellosis

When you are hunting wild animals (especially wild hogs, moose, or bison) be sure to avoid all contact with visibly ill animals or those found dead and to practice safe field dressing.

Safe field dressing can help keep you from being infected with brucellosis. So, be sure to:

  • Photo: Hands inside latex glovesUse clean, sharp knives for field dressing and butchering.
  • Wear eye protection and rubber or latex gloves (disposable or reusable) when handling carcasses.
  • Avoid direct contact (bare skin) with fluid or organs from the animal.
  • After butchering, burn or bury disposable gloves and parts of the carcass that will not be eaten.
  • Avoid feeding raw meat or other parts of the carcass to dogs.
  • Photo: Safety gogglesWash hands as soon as possible with soap and warm water for 20 seconds or more. Dry hands with a clean cloth.
  • Clean all tools and reusable gloves with a disinfectant, such as dilute bleach. (Follow the safety instructions on the label).
  • Thoroughly cook meat from any animal that can get brucellosis.
  • Be aware that freezing, smoking, drying and pickling do not kill the bacteria that cause brucellosis.

See a Doctor If You Have Signs/Symptoms of Brucellosis Infection

If you become infected with brucellosis, you may start to feel sick anywhere from a week to months after coming into contact with the infected animal.

When infection occurs, the signs and symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Sweating
  • Headache
  • Low Appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Joint Pain
  • Muscle Pain

See a doctor if you experience these signs and symptoms. Your doctor can perform blood tests that test for brucellosis. Be sure to tell your doctor about any exposure to wild animals, especially wild hogs, moose, and bison.

If your doctor diagnoses you with brucellosis, you will be prescribed antibiotics. These are drugs that can stop the infection. They are usually taken for 6 weeks or longer.

If the illness is not treated or comes back, you could have serious problems in your bones, joints, or heart.

Brucellosis does not frequently kill people, but it can happen. So, be sure to take all of the antibiotics as prescribed by your doctor. This will help prevent the illness from coming back and keep you safe and healthy.

More Information

 

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  • Page last reviewed: November 26, 2012
  • Page last updated: November 26, 2012
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