Although Louisiana’s domestic swine are free of brucellosis, the feral swine population is not. Hunters should take precautions when handling their quarry.

“Feral pigs can be infected with Brucella suis, which is contagious to people and other animals,” said Christine Navarre, Extension veterinarian for the LSU AgCenter.

The blood and reproductive organs of infected pigs can be contaminated with the infectious organism and lead to brucellosis infection in hunters exposed during field dressing of infected pigs.

“Infected pigs may not show any signs of infection, but they can still pass on the disease,” Navarre said.

Brucellosis in people can cause a serious flu-like symptom, which is a high intermittent fever that usually occurs at night and lasts for months to years if not treated properly.

Brucellosis is known for causing abortion in livestock species and illness in other animals. Hunting dogs should not be allowed to eat parts of feral swine carcasses. Carcasses should be properly disposed of to prevent this infection from spreading.

Navarre said proper disposal is deep burial or incineration, but she suggests consulting the Natural Resources Conservation Service about the best method of disposal for the part of the state where the pig was killed. The high water table in many sectors of Louisiana prevents burial.

“Hunters and meat processors should take precautions when field dressing or slaughtering feral pigs,” she said.

At a minimum, disposable rubber or latex gloves should be worn. Disposable surgical or dust masks and safety glasses offer further protection against exposure to the dangerous germ.

The meat of pigs infected with brucellosis is safe to eat once it is cooked. “However, raw meat should also be handled with disposable latex or rubber gloves.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) does not have exact figures on the brucellosis infection rate in feral swine in Louisiana. APHIS Wildlife Services and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries are in the process of screening feral swine killed through a population reduction effort in the Sabine Wildlife Refuge and other various wildlife habitats, Navarre said.

The first nine feral swine sampled in the Sabine Wildlife Reserve were negative for brucellosis, but three of them were positive for pseudorabies, a viral disease.