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Bacterial disease brucellosis reported at Pingtung sheep dairy farm

12/09/2023 07:05 PM
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Pexels photo for illustrative purpose only
Pexels photo for illustrative purpose only

Taipei, Dec. 9 (CNA) Brucellosis, a bacterial disease that can infect humans and animals, has been reported at a sheep dairy farm in Pingtung County for the first time in over 30 years, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Agency (APHIA) said Saturday.

Three sheep raised at a farm in Jiouru Township were recently confirmed as having the disease during a routine annual inspection for brucellosis conducted by the Veterinary Research Institute, the APHIA said in a statement.

The farm was then disinfected and the infected animals culled, according to the agency, which noted that the last time Taiwan reported a case of brucellosis in sheep was over three decades ago.

Even with the precautionary actions, the other 138 healthy sheep at the Jiouru farm will be required to undergo blood sampling for brucellosis every six weeks, the APHIA said.

If they do not test positive for the disease in the next 18 weeks, the farm will then be able to return to the routine of one brucellosis test per year, it said.

Hsu Jung-pin (徐榮彬), deputy director-general of the APHIA, told CNA on Saturday that Taiwan monitors sheep dairy farms on an annual basis and said the case at Jiouru was an isolated incident as no other cases of brucellosis have been detected elsewhere.

The source of infection was still being investigated, Hsu said, noting that brucellosis not only infects sheep but also other animals such as dogs and cattle.

Brucellosis is a zoonotic disease normally caused by ingestion of unpasteurized milk from infected animals or close contact with their secretions.

In Taiwan, brucellosis is listed as a Type B infectious animal disease under the Statute for Prevention and Control of Infectious Animal Diseases.

Symptoms of the disease in sheep include inflammation of the reproductive organs and fetal membranes, miscarriage and infertility, the APHIA said.

The incubation period of this infection is about one week, but it can take several months before a clinical disease appears.

Hwang Kao-pin (黃高彬), deputy chief of China Medical University Hospital's Infection Control Center, said the infection is rarely seen in humans, but its symptoms can include fever, body aches, headaches and fatigue.

Although the fatality rate of a brucellosis infection is low, Hwang said it is difficult to diagnose clinically because there are no specific symptoms, and patients do not easily recover from the illness on their own.

There is a risk of death if patients are not treated appropriately with antibiotics, he said.

Compared with the common cold, brucellosis does not cause respiratory symptoms, the physician said, reminding poultry and livestock farmers that if they happen to run a fever for no reason, they should proactively disclose their contact history when seeking treatment.

According to Centers for Disease Control Deputy Director-General Lo Yi-chun (羅一鈞), the last time Taiwan confirmed a case of brucellosis in humans was in 2015, and it involved an individual who had arrived from abroad.

(By Wu Hsin-yun, Shen Pei-yao, Lin Chiao-lien and Ko Lin)

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