Brucellosis, a bacterial disease that can infect humans and animals, has been reported at a sheep farm in Pingtung County for the first time in more than 30 years, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Agency (APHIA) said yesterday.
Three sheep raised at a farm in Jiouru Township (九如) were recently confirmed to have 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 said that the last time Taiwan reported a case of brucellosis in sheep was more than three decades ago.
Photo courtesy of the Pingtung County Government）
Even with these 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 would be able to return to a routine of one brucellosis test per year, it said.
APHIA deputy director-general Hsu Jung-pin (徐榮彬) yesterday said that Taiwan monitors sheep farms on an annual basis and said the Jiouru case was an isolated incident, as no other cases of
brucellosis have been detected.
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 the 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 (動物傳染病防治條例).
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 clinical symptoms appear.
The infection is rarely seen in humans, but its symptoms could include fever, body aches, headaches and fatigue, said Hwang Kao-pin (黃高彬), deputy chief of the China Medical University Hospital’s Infection Control Center.
Although the fatality rate of a brucellosis infections is low, Hwang said it is difficult to diagnose clinically, as there are no specific symptoms, and patients do not easily recover from the illness without treatment.
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 apparent reason, they should proactively disclose their contact history when seeking treatment, Hwang said.
The last time Taiwan confirmed a case of brucellosis in humans was in 2015, and it involved someone who had arrived from abroad, Centers for Disease Control Deputy Director-General Philip Lo (羅一鈞) said.
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