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15 March 2002
An Auckland man was hospitalised earlier this year with
suspected Brucella suis
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) and
health authorities are working closely to establish the origins of the infection
and any potential risk it may pose to public health.
Information from public health authorities to date
indicates the person may have become infected during the backyard slaughter and
dressing of two pigs for home consumption.
Brucella suis is a bacterial animal disease primarily
affecting pigs that may be transmitted to humans. Previous human cases in New
Zealand are suspected to have been infected with the bacteria while overseas.
Brucella suis has never before been detected in the New
Zealand pig population. However further investigation is underway and MAF
expects to have completed all initial tracing and testing by the end of next
Derek Belton, MAF's Director of Animal Biosecurity says
MAF is currently working to locate the farm, from which the two suspect pigs
"Not only is this important from an animal disease
control perspective, but it is also important for us to assist the health
authorities to identify any at risk people who may have come in contact with
"Our first priority is to establish whether
infected animals are actually present in New Zealand and then investigate the
potential spread of the disease and the necessary control measures on infected
"The bacterium isolated from the patient has been
sent overseas for identification by a World Reference Laboratory. Initial tests
undertaken by the National Centre for Disease Investigation indicate they are
most likely to be Brucella suis," he says
John Lee, Acting Director of MAF Food's Animal Products
Group says obviously there are food safety issues involved in the non-commercial
backyard slaughter of animals and this case clearly attests to how ill-advised
and risky such a practice is.
"There is not yet a confirmed case of Brucella
suis in a live animal. But, once there is direct evidence of infection in New
Zealand pig herds, MAF would be required to take the precautionary measure of
placing a suspension on the certification of all exports of pig meat and pig
products from New Zealand."
"Negotiations would have to be undertaken with
individual markets to ascertain what requirements New Zealand would have to meet
in order to re-establish trade," he says.
Auckland Medical Officer of Health Dr Greg Simmons says
precautions to prevent infection during slaughter and dressing of animal meat
are standard in abattoirs and the commercial sector, but extra care is needed
for backyard processing. Cuts, abrasions and sores should be covered with
watertight dressings and splash exposure to animal body fluids should be
Animal disease enquiries should be directed to: 0800
Human health enquiries should be directed to: 09 262
For further information please contact Philippa White,
MAF Communications Adviser on 04 498 9948 or 025 223 1875
Information on Brucella suis
Brucella suis is a species of the bacterial genus
Brucella which also includes, Brucella melitensis, abortus and canis
In humans, Brucella suis can be the cause of chronic
and painful illness, with arthritic complications if the organism lodges in the
bones and joints. Infection in humans is treatable with antibiotics, but even so
can take up to a year to fully resolve. It cannot be readily transferred from
human to human.
Brucella suis causes reproductive wastage in pigs,
mainly through abortions and stillbirths. Infection is introduced to a herd by
an infected carrier pig. Pig to pig transmission occurs by eating contaminated
materials, such as the products of abortion, or by venereal transmission.
Control is normally effected by test and slaughter programmes.
In countries that have porcine brucellosis, the
commercial sector manage the situation through biosecurity measures to reduce
contact between feral pigs and commercial pig farms, and on-going surveillance
or accreditation programmes for commercial farms.