What Is It?

  • Brucellosis is a bacterial disease that can affect many species of animals, including humans.
  • Cattle and elk in Idaho can be infected with Brucella abortus.
  • Brucellosis is also known as contagious abortion and Bangs disease in animals or undulant fever and Malta fever in humans.

Why Is It Important?

  • Brucellosis is a contagious disease of animals that can cause abortion, infertility, decreased milk production and weight loss.
  • It can also infect humans.

Where Is It Located?

  • Brucellosis is found worldwide in livestock, but most countries have control or eradication programs in place.
  • In the United States, B. abortus has been eradicated from cattle, but bison and elk in the Greater Yellowstone Area of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming are infected with the disease.

Who Is Affected By It?

  • At least 6 species of Brucella are known to affect various domestic animals - Brucella abortus in cattle, B. ovis in sheep, B. melentensis in goats, B. canis in dogs, and B. suis in pigs.
  • Various species of Brucella can affect wildlife - B. abortus in elk and bison, B. ovis in bighorn sheep, B. suis in reindeer, caribou and feral pigs.
  • Humans can become infected by coming in contact with infected animals or animal discharges, especially reproductive materials.

How Does Infection Occur?

  • Infected cattle, elk and bison can transmit Brucella abortus abortus during abortion or birthing events.
  • Other animals in the herd can acquire the infection through contact with infected reproductive fluids or tissues (aborted fetuses, placentas, fetal fluids) or through infected milk.
  • Humans can become infected by eating or drinking materials contaminated with the bacteria or skin wound contact from infected animal tissues or fluids.

How Do I Keep Myself, My Family, and My Pets From Becoming Affected?

  • Do not harvest obviously sick or injured animals.
  • Avoid eating, drinking or using tobacco when field-dressing or handling the carcass.
  • Use latex or rubber gloves when handling the carcass or raw meat.
  • Avoid direct contact with reproductive organs from elk or bison; especially avoid any aborted fetuses.
  • Clean and disinfect knives, cleaning area, clothing and any other exposed surfaces when finished processing the carcass or meat.
  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water and use disinfecting hand gel in the field.
  • Cook all meat thoroughly to 170 degrees F.

What Is Idaho Fish and Game Doing to Help Manage This Disease?

  • Brucellosis was documented in elk in Idaho in 1998. Infected elk are limited to certain areas of eastern Idaho.
  • In 1998, a Wildlife Brucellosis Task Force was formed to develop a management plan for brucellosis in elk and affiliated cattle populations in Idaho.
  • Conducting trapping and testing of elk for brucellosis.
  • Monitoring and managing elk density to decrease risk of brucellosis transmission to cattle by improving winter range conditions for elk.
  • Working cooperatively with Idaho State Department of Agriculture to minimize elk-cattle interactions during winter feeding of cattle or stored hay by fencing haystacks, fenced cattle feeding areas and hazing of elk from cattle wintering areas.
  • Providing public education about the disease.
Bighorn sheep
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Last Updated: July 9, 2013 
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