Feral swine hunters should use caution when field dressing harvests
By Wesson Gaston, USDA APHIS Wildlife Services
Feral swine are invasive mammals that have been known to carry over 30 diseases and 37 parasites that can be transmitted to livestock, people, pets, and wildlife. Their populations are spreading like wild fire across the United States through population dispersal, escape from high fence facilities and domestic operations, as well as relocation by humans for hunting purposes. Free ranging populations have been documented in at least 39 states.
The USDA-Wildlife Services National Wildlife Disease Program tests feral pigs for classical swine fever (CSF), pseudorabies (PRV), swine brucellosis (SB), swine influ-enza virus (SIV), hepatitis E (HEV), toxoplasmosis, trichinosis, foot and mouth dis-ease (FMD), and African swine fever (ASF). CSF, FMD, and ASF are foreign animal diseases that are not present in the United States. If these diseases were introduced into the U.S., it would have a significant impact on domestic pork production and ex-ports. With the increased risk of transmission from wild herds to domestic herds, an increase in bio-security methods have been implemented by domestic producers to insure that the chance of spill-over is kept at a minimum.
An important disease that feral pigs can transmit to humans is swine brucellosis. This is a bacterial disease that is transmitted through reproductive discharges, particularly the afterbirth from infected sows or in semen from infected boars. Infected swine are disease carriers for life with no effec-tive treatment. Hunters are especially at risk when field-dressing wild pigs. They should take the following precautions when field dressing wild pigs and other game: Always wear disposable rubber or plastic gloves when handling or cleaning wild pigs and avoid direct contact with blood and reproductive organs. After cleaning/butchering the animal, wash hands and arms thoroughly with hot water and antibacterial soap. Discard gloves properly after use. Cook meat thoroughly.
Only 4 out of 100 (4%) collected feral pigs tested positive for swine brucellosis in Alabama through the National Wildlife Disease Program this year. Two tested positive in Clarke County, 1 in Mobile County, and 1 in Baldwin County. All of these samples occurred along the Tombigbee and Mobile waterways. This is lower than last year’s results of 5/55 (11%) testing positive. Because the sampling is not random, infection rates cannot be compared. However, results of 10-12% infection rates or less have been found in the literature in other southeastern states.