Owners of imported dogs should wash their hands every time they touch their pet, health chiefs urged today.
The advice comes after three Britons suffered a bug that is usually limited to canines from countries such as Romania, Serbia and Bosnia.
There are no signs that Brucella canis (B. canis) is spreading between people and the risk of people becoming infected is “very low”, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).
However, Britons who own imported dogs are at greater risk of contracting the infection through contact with their pet’s reproductive fluid, blood or urine.
They should wash their hands’after any interaction” with your dog and “may want to consider” wearing gloves, goggles and a mask when handling your pet, he said.
The UKHSA also published a list of the telltale signs of infection in people, including fever, headaches and sweating.
The UKHSA published a list of the telltale signs of infection in people, including fever, headaches and sweating, as well as loss of appetite and weight loss.
In dogs, B. canis can cause infertility and abortions, as well as fatigue, swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, armpits or groin, as well as back or joint problems.
Loss of appetite, weight loss and tiredness, as well as Back and joint pain can also be a sign, according to the UKHSA.
However, he noted that those who are infected do not always develop symptoms right away, and it can take weeks or years for them to appear.
Their advice also urges all Brits to minimize contact with dogs’ reproductive fluids, blood and urine, regardless of whether they are imported or not, and to wash their hands with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds if they have contact with these products.
It noted that immunocompromised people, young children and pregnant women may be at higher risk of developing serious symptoms and illness.
While B. canis is “rarely fatal” in humans and most people make a full recovery with antibiotics, if left untreated it can cause inflammation of the lining of the heart, called endocarditis.
It can also trigger meningitis: inflammation of the protective membrane that surrounds the brain and spinal cord.
The UKHSA urged anyone who feels unwell and has had contact with an infected dog (especially its birth products, such as reproductive secretions) to contact their GP or NHS 111.
A blood test, which is sent to a laboratory for specialized testing, detects whether a person is infected. Those who have the virus are usually treated with antibiotics.
B. canis is an incurable disease in dogs and only infects humans in rare cases.
Some 91 dogs tested positive for the infection in the first half of the year, while only three cases had been detected in the UK before 2020, according to the UKHSA.
All of the dogs that tested positive in the UK were imported from Eastern Europe such as Romania, Serbia and Bosnia, had contact with the birth products of an imported dog or are their puppies.
In dogs, B. canis can cause infertility and miscarriages, as well as fatigue, swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, armpits or groin, as well as back or joint problems.
Three human cases have been detected in the United Kingdom with the first being detected in August 2022.
Wendy Hayes, from Stroke-on-Trent, contracted B. canis from a pregnant rescue dog called Moosha, from Belarus, whom she was fostering.
Moosha was taken to a government quarantine facility due to problems with her paperwork and shortly after, the 61-year-old woman reported suffering from fever, severe headaches and back pain.
Testing on dogs has soared in the UK with 5,773 carried out in the first six months of this year, compared to just 1,332 in 2018.
Wendy Hayes (pictured), from Stroke-on-Trent, contracted B. canis from a pregnant rescue dog called Moosha, from Belarus, who she was fostering.
While Ms Hayes was treated with antibiotics, her five dogs were put down to prevent the infection from spreading.
Tests confirmed that both Hayes and Moosha were infected with B. canis.
While Ms Hayes was treated with antibiotics, her five dogs were put down to stop the spread of the infection.
This year two more cases were detected in humans.
The first was identified at the hospital, while the second worked at a veterinarian and was detected as part of routine contact tracing after an infection was detected in a dog.
No cases of human-to-human transmission have been detected in the UK, a phenomenon the UKHSA says is “very rare”.
But he warned that people who own imported dogs, breeders of imported dogs and veterinarians are at higher risk of becoming infected with B. canis than the rest of the population.
Lateral flow tests and blood samples can be used to confirm an infection in dogs.
However, there is no treatment for the infection in canines.
Instead, veterinarians advise how to control the infection, which may include neutering, limiting contact with other dogs, and euthanizing the dog.