BRUCELLOSIS (Bang’s Disease or Undulant fever in Humans) – Brucellosis in goats and sheep is a very serious disease caused by Brucella melitensis. Bang’s disease causes spontaneous abortion in cattle and other bovines and related species, and is caused by B. abortus. In cattle, the disease is transmitted venereally and humans become infected by contacting infected fluids (especially from aborted fetuses) or by drinking infected, unpasteurized milk products. Goat brucellosis is also transmissible to humans through contact with unpasteurized milk and milk products or by handling aborted fetuses. Between goats, the disease is transmitted by normal infection routes via contact of infected fluids with an open sore or cut. This disease has been controlled in Western countries through a vigorous vaccination program that was followed up by a mandatory testing program. Cattle cannot be sold in some states of the United States unless they have been tested. Animals cannot be imported into the US unless they have been tested. Animals that test positive are routinely destroyed.
Symptoms – Spontaneous abortion in cattle, sheep and goats is often the first observed sign. Other symptoms include stiff joints, fevers that come and go, and joint swelling. The fluids accompanying the aborted fetus are infective and cattle, sheep or goats that have aborted should be isolated and culled immediately.
Treatment – Modern antibiotics such as tetracycline are effective treatments for sick animals and humans. If left untreated, animals will usually recover in 10 day to 2 weeks, but will forever be a carrier of the disease and a potential infective agent for other animals. Untreated humans will recover 90% of the time but may experience recurrences of the fever and joint ill.
Prevention – All animals should be tested for the disease and carriers culled from the herd. Goats do not normally get bovine brucellosis although they can test positive for that disease. Young cattle should be vaccinated. Older cattle should not be vaccinated, as the immune response to the vaccine will cause them to test positive later. Infected goats or goats that have aborted their fetuses should be immediately culled.