Brucellosis is a highly contagious disease of livestock caused by Brucella Abortus or Brucella Melitensis and is characterised by abortions or reproductive failure in cattle, sheep goats and pigs. Animals may recover from the disease however, they can continue to shed the bacteria causing spread of the disease with significant economic impact through reduced production in livestock. The disease is most often spread amongst a herd when an animal aborts or gives birth as the bacterium is present in high levels in birth fluids and can remain active in the environment for some time.
Brucellosis is a zoonotic disease, meaning it can be transmitted from animals to humans. It causes flu-like symptoms and/or persistent headaches. Infection can enter the body through the eyes, inhalation, swallowing or through skin wounds when handling aborted calves or infected material. Infection in humans can also occur through drinking unpasteurised milk from infected animals.
Current Situation in Scotland
All of Great Britain has been officially Brucellosis free since 1985 however, Brucellosis is still present in several other European Union countries including Northern Ireland, and it is important therefore to maintain an effective level of surveillance in order to protect our “Brucellosis Free” status.
The law requires cattle keepers to report every abortion or premature calving to a veterinary inspector as required by Article 9 of The Brucellosis (Scotland) Order 2009 and places an obligation on both producer retailers and primary purchasers of milk to have bulk milk samples tested by an approved laboratory at 3 month intervals.