Feral hogs, like any animal, have the potential to carry diseases and parasites. Although they have the ability to spread these diseases to livestock and humans, the transfer from feral hogs to humans and livestock is not well documents.There are two diseases associated with feral hogs and Russian wild boar that have been documented. Feral hogs can commonly carry pseudorabies and swine brucellosis, although many hogs do not. Other diseases feral hogs may carry are tuberculosis, tularemia, and even anthrax.
Pseudorabies is a viral disease of the central nervous system that can affect both domestic and feral hogs. In addition, pseudorabies can fatally affect cattle, horses, goats, sheep, dogs, and cats. Wild animals such as raccoons, skunks, opossums, rats, and mice can also be fatally infected. Symptoms of the pseudorabies virus in these animals, whether domestic or wild, are anorexia, excessive salivation, spasms, convulsions and intense itching followed by paralysis and then death. Pseudorabies is not related to the rabies virus and does not infect people. This disease is of special concern to domestic hog owners because it can weaken pigs and cause abortions and stillbirths, thus decreasing production and profits in commercial hog operations.
Once infected with pseudorabies, the hog will be a lifetime carrier and will periodically shed the virus through the both orally and through the nasal cavity. Transmission of the psedoradbies can be through direct contact, contaminated feed and water, ingestion of infected tissues, or contaminated trailers. It can not be obtained through properly cooked pork.
Feral Hogs can also carry swine brucellosis. This disease can cause infertility in boars and abortions in sows. Swine brucellosis can also cause a loss of production and profit in domestic swine operations, so it important that feral hogs be restricted from commeicial operations. Swine brucellosis is transmitted through reproductive discharges, such as semen and afterbirth. Once infected, a feral or domestic hog is a carrier for life. The only effective way to control this disease is to test and remove infected individuals, something that is impossible to do in a wild hog population.
Swine brucellosis is contagious to humans and symptoms may range from severe flu-like symptoms to arthritis or meningitis. There is no cure for this disease in animals, but humans can be treated with antibiotics to cure the infection.
The main reservoirs of tuberculosis infection are in man and cattle. However feral hogs have been found infected with the same strain (Mycobacterium bovis) of tuberculosis found in both humans and cattle. Tuberculosis is often contracted by ingestion of infected materials. Although the M. bovis strain has been detected in feral hogs, they are not very susceptible to this disease. Lesions on the lymph nodes are good indicators of an infected hog. Due to extensive control measures, the disease of tuberculosis is not common. Feral hogs may also carry another strain of tuberculosis (M. avis), which is contracted by eating dead birds. This strain, however, is not contagious to humans.
Tularemia is not commonly found in feral hogs but they can contract it through direct contact or ingestion of contaminated animal carcasses. Ticks are a good vector as well as a reservoir and the most common source of infection for man. Persons who dress, prepare or eat improperly cooked feral hogs or other wild game are also at increased risk.
Feral hogs can potentially cary anthrax, but anthrax is usually limited to specific outbreaks that have experienced breakouts in the past. Anthrax is a serious soil-borne disease that is most commonly associated with neutral or alkaline soils that serve as reservoirs for the organism’s spores. Recognized endemic areas include parts of Texas, Louisiana, California, Arkansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, South Dakota and small areas in other states.
Even within these areas, anthrax occurs irregularly and primarily when the minimal daily temperature is above 60 degrees. Anthrax breakouts seem to occur most often during very dry, hot conditions. Although uncommon in wild pigs, the feral hog may become infected when feeding–because everything feral hogs eat is on or in the ground. Humans can contract this disease from contaminated animals or through the soil. Anthrax disease in humans is often fatal unless promptly treated with antibiotics.
Feral hogs can potentially harbor several parasites, some of which might pose problems for humans and other animals. Fleas, hog lice, and ticks are some common external parasites that feral hogs may acquire. However, it is thought that feral hogs do not remain in any single area long enough to get infected with large numbers of internal parasites. With that said, internal parasites can occur in feral hogs. These internal parasites can include roundworms, kidneyworms, lungworms, stomachworms, whipworms, liver flukes, and trichinosis. Trichinosis can be transferred to humans by eating undercooked, infected pork.
Hog hunters, farmers and ranchers should be aware of these potential diseases and parasites and take every precaution to avoid infection. Ranchers should ensure all of their livestock are vaccinated, especially when there is a chance they may have contact with feral hogs. There are state and federal laws governing the transport and relocation of feral hogs, so know the laws of your state before trapping feral hogs and moving them elsewhere. Blood tests are required by law before feral hogs can be relocated.
Hog hunters and trappers should always wear rubber gloves when handling or cleaning feral hogs. Avoid contact with reproductive organs and blood and wash up thoroughly after contact. Feral hogs make great table fare, but hog meat should be thoroughly cooked before consumption.