Diseases detected in Arid Land feral pigs

News article |

The South Australian Arid Lands Landscape Board has been working with the community and the Department for Primary Industries and Regions (PIRSA) to tackle the growing feral pig numbers in north east of South Australia. Routine feral pig disease surveillance occurred following culling of unprecedented numbers in December 2021 when antibodies to the bacterial disease Brucellosis (Brucella suis) were detected in one sample collected from eight feral pigs. Further testing in February 2022 also detected exposure to Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) in seven of the feral pigs.

The South Australian Arid Lands Landscape Board has been working with the community and the Department of Primary Industries and Regions (PIRSA) to tackle the growing feral pig numbers in north east of South Australia.

Routine feral pig disease surveillance occurred following culling of unprecedented numbers in December 2021. Antibodies to the bacterial disease Brucellosis (Brucella suis) were detected in one sample collected from eight feral pigs. Further testing in February 2022 also detected exposure to Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) in seven of the feral pigs.

The positive B.suis sample was from the Diamantina/Warburton system, and JEV positive samples were detected in both the Diamantina/Warburton and Cooper Creek systems. Both B.suis and JEV are nationally notifiable diseases.

B.suis is widespread in Queensland's feral pig population, and has also been detected in the feral pig population in northern New South Wales. Animals may have been infected in these states as feral pigs often travel down the river systems into South Australia.

Since February 2022, JEV has been detected in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia in domestic pigs. It was also detected in feral pigs from the Northern Territory.

While B.suis usually affects pigs, it can cause serious illness and long-lasting health problems in people, and is potentially fatal. Feral pig hunters and trappers, and pig hunting dogs are at highest risk of infection and can pass infection on to other dogs and humans.

Brucella is transmitted to humans and animals through direct contact with tissues or body fluids of an infected animal. The risk of infection is greatest when cuts or grazes come into contact with infected tissues and body fluids such as blood, urine, saliva, vaginal discharge, birth products and aborted foetuses. Infection may also occur after eating undercooked meat from an infected animal.

When pig hunting or butchering hunted pigs, you should avoid direct contact with animal blood, body fluid or tissues. In particular, avoid opening high-risk tissues such as swollen joints, uteruses, and testicles.

You’re strongly advised to wear rubber gloves, overalls, eye protection and boots that can be cleaned and disinfected, and to protect all cuts and grazes with waterproof dressings. In addition, do not eat, drink, or smoke while cutting up the pig. Pregnant women and their babies are at greater risk of severe disease and should avoid any activity involving feral pigs. Meat should be thoroughly cooked before eating, and carcases and waste disposed of carefully, if possible, by burying or burning.

B. suis has been detected interstate in dogs that have been pig-hunting or that have been fed raw feral pig meat. Do not feed dogs any raw meat or tissues from feral pigs and wash your dog before leaving the hunting site. If your dog shows signs of the disease, seek veterinary advice.

You should thoroughly wash hands, arms, and all surfaces with soapy water before and after butchering, and clean and disinfect all working areas, equipment, and vehicles with soapy water.

Given the heightened focus on disease threats to humans, livestock and domestic animals, with pigs as carriers - coupled with the significant water flows from this year’s heavy rainfalls - the SA Arid Lands Landscape Board has scheduled follow-up aerial culls and sample testing during the remainder of the year.

Landholders are encouraged to report sightings of feral pigs and seek support or advice about management options.

For more information and to report feral pig sightings, please contact the SAAL Landscape Board on 8648 5307 or email saal.landscapeboard@sa.gov.au

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