Feral Hogs as Disease Carriers: Understanding the Health Risks

Morgan Mason
December 21, 2023
3 min read

Feral hogs, also known as wild boars or wild pigs, are renowned for their adaptability and tenacity. While their ecological and agricultural impact is widely recognized, less attention is given to the diseases they carry. Feral hogs can harbor a range of diseases that pose potential risks to humans, domestic animals, and wildlife. In this article, we will explore some of the diseases that feral hogs may host and the implications for public health and wildlife management.

  1. Brucellosis:
  2. Brucellosis is a bacterial disease that affects a variety of animals, including feral hogs. While the prevalence of brucellosis in feral hogs is relatively low, it can be transmitted to other species, including domestic livestock and humans. In humans, brucellosis can cause flu-like symptoms, including fever, joint pain, and fatigue.
  3. Swine Brucellosis:
  4. Swine brucellosis, caused by the bacterium Brucella suis, primarily affects pigs, including feral hogs. Infected hogs may carry the bacteria in their reproductive tissues, and the disease can be transmitted to humans through contact with contaminated tissues or bodily fluids. In humans, swine brucellosis can lead to similar symptoms as classical brucellosis.
  5. Leptospirosis:
  6. Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that affects various animals, including feral hogs. While hogs may not display clinical signs, they can shed the bacteria in their urine, contaminating water sources. Humans can contract leptospirosis through contact with contaminated water or soil. Symptoms may range from mild flu-like symptoms to severe, potentially life-threatening conditions.
  7. Trichinosis:
  8. Trichinosis is caused by the parasite Trichinella spiralis, and feral hogs are known hosts. When humans consume undercooked or raw pork from infected hogs, they can become infected. Trichinosis can lead to symptoms such as muscle pain, fever, and gastrointestinal discomfort.
  9. Hepatitis E:
  10. Feral hogs have been identified as a potential reservoir for the hepatitis E virus (HEV). While transmission to humans is relatively rare, it can occur through consumption of undercooked or raw pork or through contact with infected bodily fluids.
  11. Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases:
  12. Feral hogs are known to host ticks, which can carry diseases such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and various forms of ehrlichiosis. Although hogs themselves may not directly transmit these diseases to humans, they contribute to the tick population, increasing the risk of tick-borne diseases in their habitats.

Implications for Wildlife Management and Public Health

The presence of feral hogs as disease carriers has implications for both wildlife management and public health:

  1. Wildlife Management: Feral hogs can act as reservoirs for diseases that can impact native wildlife populations. This can complicate conservation efforts and threaten the health of vulnerable species.
  2. Public Health: While the risk of disease transmission from feral hogs to humans is generally low, it underscores the importance of safe handling and proper cooking of wild game meat. Hunters and those who come into contact with feral hogs should take precautions to reduce the risk of disease transmission.

Feral hogs are not only a threat to ecosystems and agriculture but can also carry diseases that have implications for public health and wildlife management. While the risks are generally manageable, it is essential for hunters, wildlife professionals, and the public to be aware of these potential health concerns and take appropriate precautions to minimize risks when dealing with feral hogs and their associated diseases. Effective disease monitoring, control measures, and responsible hunting practices can help mitigate these risks and protect both human and animal health.