Limpopo Health Department warns livestock farmers of brucellosis disease after a livestock farmer died in Giyani

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By Robert Maswanganyi

Polokwane- Limpopo provincial department of health has on Tuesday alerted community members, particularly those who work and handle livestock and animals in regular basis to be extra cautious.

This follows a case of a Giyani livestock farmer who lost his life after he has been diagnosed with Brucellosis.

The farmer is reported to have drank unpasteurized (unboiled) milk from his cattle.

Health provincial spokesperson Neil Shikwambana says brucellosis in human is a widespread zoonosis mainly transmitted from cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and camels through direct contact with blood, placenta, fetuses or uterine secretions, or through consumption of contaminated raw animal products (especially unpasteurized milk and soft cheese).

“Brucellosis infection is acquired through ingestion or direct contact such as touching, splashes onto mucous membranes, inhalation (breathing in) of contaminated animal products.

“NOTE that infection with Brucella species is not spread from person to person / in other words, it is very much rare for human to spread the disease.

“Brucellosis can begin suddenly, or slowly, the incubation period is highly variable, usually 2 – 4 weeks, can be 1 week to 2 months or longer.

“Symptoms are non-specific and include, profuse sweating mostly during the night, Fever, extreme tiredness, aches in bones and joints (especially with the lower back, hip or knee joints). Some signs and symptoms may persist for longer periods of time. Others may never go away or reoccur.

“These can include, recurrent fevers, arthritis, swelling of the testicle and scrotum area, swelling of the heart (endocarditis), neurologic symptoms (in up to 5% of all cases), chronic fatigue, depression, swelling of the liver and/or spleen.

“Eating undercooked or uncooked meat or consuming unpasteurized/raw dairy products. When animals such as sheep, goats, cows, or camels are infected, their milk becomes contaminated with the bacteria.

“If the milk from infected animals is not pasteurized (boiled), the infection will be transmitted to people who consume the milk and/or cheese products.

“Bacteria can also enter wounds in the skin/ mucous membranes through contact with infected animals. This includes people who have close contact with animals or animal excretions (newborn animals, fetuses, and excretions that may result from birth).

“Such as workers may include, slaughterhouse workers, meat-packing plant employees, veterinarians, farmers and people who hunt animals may also be at risk. When they are in contact with infected animals, exposure to the bacteria may occur through: skin wounds, accidentally ingesting undercooked meat, inhaling the bacteria while dressing their game.

“People who are at greater risks are the following, risk is greater for infants and young children, older adults, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems, such as: people with cancer, an organ transplant, or HIV, than it is for healthy older children and adults. But healthy people of any age can get very sick or even die if they drink raw milk contaminated with harmful germs.

“Please note that drinking unboiled /raw milk can cause you to be seriously ill.

“Prevent brucellosis infection by ensuring that you do not consume, undercooked meat,. Unpasteurized(unboiled) dairy products, including: milk, cheese and ice cream. Pasteurization is when raw milk is boiled to a high temperature for a short period of time.

“This boiling process destroys harmful bacteria that may make the milk unsafe to consume. If you are not sure that the dairy product is pasteurized, do not eat it.

“People who handle animal tissues (such as hunters and animal herdsman) should protect themselves by using: rubber gloves, goggles and gowns or aprons.
“This will help ensure that bacteria from potentially infected animals do not get into eyes or inside a cut or abrasion  on the skin.

“As government, we encourage that once you experience the signs and symptoms, please visit your nearest health clinic”.

“For animal health, please visit your nearest animal health technician/ state veterinarian department of agriculture and rural development”, concluded Shikwambana.