Been outdoors lately?
Despite the lack of rain during the past month, mosquitoes have staked claim to the state's swamps, marshes and woodlands. No doubt a water-logged summer is to blame for these swarms.
While this pest, along with ticks and gnats, pose problems for hunters in duck blinds and deer stands, there’s a silent, possibly deadly problem The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns for upland game hunters now that the bulk of the deer season is on our calendars.
It’s brucellosis, a bacteria-caused infectious disease that can put hunters down for the remainder of year, possibly longer.
Hunters and workers who process game animals for our tables can contract brucellosis after contact with blood and/or organs from infected animals.
Department of Wildlife and Fisheries veterinarian Dr. Jim Lacour has warned hunters for years about exposure to the disease when field-dressing then processing the ever-present and expanding population of feral hogs.
In its latest advisory, the CDC echoes Lacour’s counsel. Feral hogs top the CDC’s list of hunted animals posing the highest risk to hunters.
The list expands to include whitetail deer — and that about covers the risk for Louisiana hunters — but there are hunters among us who travel to other areas and face exposure from elk, moose, other deer species, and, for us, exotics like moose, the American bison, bears and caribou.
The biggest problem for hunters is, according to the CDC, is it's "possible for animals that appear healthy to have brucellosis,” and, “when an animal gets infected with the bacteria that causes brucellosis, it can carry the bacteria for life and can pass the disease on to other animals and humans.”
Hunting dogs feeding on the meat of infected animals can contract the disease, too.
The CDC advisory stated anyone handling the meat of an infected animal can get sick if blood or other fluids from the animal contacts your eyes, nose, mouth, or skin while “field-dressing, butchering, handling or preparing raw meat for cooking, or eating meat that is not thoroughly cooked.”
While it’s rare this bacteria kill peoples, it can make you very ill. After tests confirm its presence, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics, which you might have to take for up to six weeks.
Symptoms include fever, joint and/or muscle pain, chills, sweating, headaches, low appetite and fatigue. The CDC advisory stated symptoms can take a week to a month after contact to show. If any of these do, then see a physician, and make sure to talk about contact with any of these wild species. A blood test will confirm infection.
The CDC’s list of safe-handling processes begins with avoiding contact with a “visibly ill animal or those found dead.”
Using clean, sharp knives for field-dressing and butchering;
Wearing eye protection and rubber or latex gloves when handling carcasses;
Avoiding direct bare-skin contact with fluid or organs from the animal, and with hunting dogs that may have come into contact with hunted animals.
After that initial activities, other post-hunt cautions include:
Burning or burying disposable gloves and parts of the carcass that will not be eaten;
Washing hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, the drying hands with a clean cloth;
Cleaning all tools with a disinfectant, like diluted bleach.
Then, at-home advisories include:
Thoroughly cooking meat from any animal/species known to be a possible brucellosis carrier;
Being aware that freezing, smoking, drying and pickling do not kill the brucellosis bacteria.