Elk Taken in Bighorns Tests Positive for Brucellosis
These infections are spread by untreated bison and winter feeding of elk.
BUFFALO — Brucellosis, a disease of concern for wildlife and livestock alike, was recently detected in the western Bighorn Mountains.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department announced in November that a blood sample from a hunter-harvested bull elk tested positive for brucellosis, a disease that impacts reproduction in animals, primarily affecting elk, bison and cattle.
Infected females of these species abort calves during their first pregnancy. The disease is transmitted when animals come in contact with the bacteria, which most commonly occurs during birth.
It also impacts reproductive organs in males, like the one detected in the western Bighorns, though bull elk cannot spread the disease and it hasn’t been detected in area livestock, state veterinarian Dr. Hallie Hasel said.
However, if the disease spreads to cow elk, who could pass it on to livestock, the Wyoming State Livestock Board will implement surveillance testing in cattle in the Bighorn Mountain region, Hasel said. If domestic cattle contract the disease, not only is it likely that they will abort pregnancies or birth weak calves, but producers will also have to quarantine an infected herd and test regularly, a process that is both expensive and time consuming.
“We’re fairly confident that if it’s just this one [elk], it won’t have any negative impacts on producers,” said Jim Magagna, executive vice president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association.
Currently, within the disease surveillance area, which spans northwestern Wyoming where the disease is most prominent, female cattle are tested for the disease before they are shipped.
Animals don’t show symptoms of brucellosis, according to the Wyoming Brucellosis Coordination Team.
Humans could suffer from brucellosis infection if they handle an infected reproductive tract or fetus, according to Game and Fish. Symptoms in humans include recurring low-grade fever, joint or back aches, night sweats and depression.
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