Feral pigs are susceptible to a variety of diseases. Four of the more important ones being: brucellosis, pseudorabies, leptospirosis, and trichinosis.
Swine brucellosis is caused by a bacteria that is very similar to the brucellosis in cattle. Swine brucellosis causes abortions in sows and infertility in boars. Other livestock are rarely threatened by swine brucellosis, although cattle can become infected if they are exposed to the afterbirth of infected feral pigs. Free ranging swine could be a source of infection for range cattle, which could threaten the state’s brucellosis-free status and cause enormous economic hardship for the cattle industry including extensive handling and testing of cattle. Humans can contract swine brucellosis through the handling of the infected tissues of feral pigs. Most affected people report "flu-like" symptoms including recurring fever, chills, sweating, weakness, headaches, joint, and muscle pain. Hunters are at risk when they dress feral pigs and should take the following precautions:
- Always wear disposable plastic gloves when dressing and cleaning feral pigs. Avoid direct contact with blood and reproductive organs.
- Bury or burn gloves and remains from dressed feral pigs.
- Clean up with hot water and soap after butchering.
- Cook meat thoroughly prior to eating.
Another important disease harbored by feral pigs is pseudorabies. Pseudorabies is a fatal infection in farm animals, such as cattle, sheep, goats and in dogs, and cats. Wild mammal, such as raccoons, skunks, foxes, and small rodents can be fatally infected. The virus attacks the nervous system in these animals and can produce intense itching followed by paralysis and death. Although people are not themselves at risk, their dogs could become infected by exposure to feral pigs.
Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that causes severe flu-like or hepatitis symptoms in humans. Transmission of the disease is usually caused by exposure to water or tissues contaminated with the urine of infected animals.
Trichinosis is caused by a microscopic parasitic intestinal roundworm. Eating raw or undercooked meat infected with the roundworm larvae can infect humans. Feral pigs in many states are carriers of this disease. Freezing infected meat at 10 0F for 10 days or longer or cooking at temperatures greater than 170 0F will kill the parasite.
Note: A pig’s appearance does not indicate if it is infected with the above diseases, so it is important to wear plastic gloves while dressing and processing the animal in order to keep blood and body fluids away from any cuts or scratches on your hands. Do not feed raw meat or internal organs to pets because they can become infected.