I don’t normally publish news articles on my blog but this item will be of importance to many of you guys that hunt hogs, rabbits or other game. If I was hunting even close to Bell or Coryell Counties I would be very careful. In truth all of us that dress out wild game should make a habit of wearing latex or rubber gloves while dressing game. It would also be wise to carry a bottle of antibacterial hand wash to use when finished. Just a word to the wise, Wild Ed
(January 24, 2011)—Researchers at Texas Tech University’s Institute of Environmental and Human Health warned area farmers, ranchers and hunters Monday to use caution when handling wild game after finding evidence of the bacteria that causes tularemia in feral hogs in Bell and Coryell Counties.
Tularemia is a serious infectious disease caused by the bacteria Francisella tularensis, said Steve Presley, a zoonotic disease researcher who leads the team that tested about 130 feral hogs from Bell, Coryell and Crosby Counties.
Rodents and wild game animals as well as mosquitoes, deer flies and ticks, can carry tularemia, which is commonly known as rabbit fever, he said.
Fifteen percent of the feral hogs from the two Central Texas counties and 50 percent of those from Crosby County showed evidence of current or past infection, he said.
“We have found high levels of antibodies in these pigs that show they have been infected with Francisella tularensis and found that some of these pigs were actively infected with it,” Presley said.
“The bacteria are constantly present in animals in this area and the feral hog population, but normally it’s only a small number of cases. This is a huge number of infected animals.”
What the researchers have yet to determine is the subspecies of bacteria infecting the hogs.
The Type B subspecies can cause illness in wildlife, domestic animals and humans, but poses a less serious health threat to humans, Presley said.
But the Type A subspecies can be lethal to humans, he said, and the U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention considers it a viable bio-weapons agent.
Regardless of which type it turns out to be, Presley says anyone who may come into contact with wild animals—especially those that might hunt or eat wild hogs—should be cautious.
“If you are handling or cleaning or eating wild game, particularly hogs, deer or rabbits, you should be wearing rubber gloves and eye protection when you’re dressing wild game,” he said.
“The bacteria can enter any sort of small cut or hangnail. During this time of year, it might not be as big of an issue, but you should check yourself for ticks, wear tick repellent and avoid biting flies, including mosquitoes.”
Presley also recommends making sure game meats are thoroughly cooked before eating them and says homeowners and lawn care professionals should look for wild rabbit nests hidden in tall grasses prior to mowing.
The discovery was made while the researchers were looking for brucellosis.
They found no evidence of that disease, and were surprised to find evidence of tularemia, said Brad Dabbert, associate chairman of Tech’s Department of Natural Resources Management.
“Traditionally, it’s a rabbit disease, but it does get reported in birds and other mammals,” Dabbert said.
“Since hogs can range over large areas, it’s certainly possible that they can transport this stuff. That’s kind of the critical issue now. The other thing we’re trying to do is look for it in other animals now to more accurately answer that question,” he said.
Between 2000 and 2008, only eight human cases of tularemia were reported in Texas, Tech said Monday.
About 125 are reported each year in the U.S., Tech said.
Texas AgriLife Extension Service says feral hogs can be found in 230 of Texas' 254 counties and cause annual damages of nearly $400 million.