Florida Department of Health Pinellas County | Epi Watch November 2019

Brucellosis Among Hunters

As the temperature cools down, Floridians engage in more outdoor activities, including hunting wild game. Hunting certain animals, particularly feral swine, place hunters at an increased risk of contracting infectious diseases such as brucellosis. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates the state-wide prevalence of brucellosis among feral swine herds to be 10-20% with prevalence as high as 50% in central Florida1. Pinellas county reported 2 brucellosis cases in 2017 with 11 cases reported state-wide2. 

Brucellosis transmission occurs when open cuts or mucous membranes encounter body fluids or tissue infected with Brucella bacteria3. Symptoms include fever, headaches, chills, weight loss, and muscle/joint pain. The symptoms are non-specific and may not appear immediately, which can lead to misdiagnosis and underreporting. Brucellosis can result in severe health problems, including death, if not diagnosed and treated promptly3. If a patient complains of an unexplained recurring fever, providers should assess for possible exposure to feral swine.

There is no vaccine available for brucellosis in humans, so prevention relies on following certain safety practices. Hunters can protect themselves and their families from brucellosis by following these recommendations:

  • Wear protective gear: Wear safety glasses, rubber gloves, and boots while hunting and butchering. Disinfect gear with a diluted bleach solution after each use.
  • Avoid direct contact with feral swine: Do not touch the carcass with bare hands. Keep children away from the field dressing site. Dogs can contract brucellosis, so they should not eat raw meat or play with animal carcasses.
  • Safe field dressing methods: Avoid visibly ill animals or those found dead. Prepare game using clean, sharp knives in an area with adequate ventilation and lighting. Do not eat, drink, smoke, or dip tobacco while processing meat.
  • Follow food safety tips: Practice proper hand and surface hygiene before and after butchering. Separate raw game meat from other foods, chill raw and cooked game meat immediately, and cook game meat to an internal temperature of 160˚F. Freezing, smoking, drying, and pickling do not kill Brucella bacteria.

More information on preventative steps for hunters can be found here.

Hepatitis A Outbreak – Update

As of October 31, 2,962 cases of Hepatitis A have been reported in Florida in 2019. Pinellas and Pasco have re-mained two of the most impacted counties with 375 and 400 counts, respectively. Although rates appear to be declining, as shown in the graph below, response activities are ongoing and DOH-Pinellas will continue to moni-tor trends. The Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County (DOH-Pinellas) continues to provide hepatitis A vaccina-tions and education to the community. Since January 2018, DOH-Pinellas has provided almost 20,000 vaccines to the community at outreaches, foot teams and clinics.


Opioid-related Overdoses and the ALTO Program

The opioid epidemic is a growing concern. On average, 130 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose1. In Pinellas, more than one person dies every 37 hours from an opioid-related overdose2. Multiple programs and interventions have been developed to combat this epidemic including the wide-scale distribution of Na-loxone, improving access to treatment, and communication between differing de-partments.

In 2016, St. Josephs Reginal Medical Center in New Jersey developed the Alternatives to Opioids program (ALTO). The treatment protocol is de-signed to limit the prescription of opioids as first-line medications for pain related ED visits via the use of non-opioid medications, trigger-point injec-tion, nitrous oxide, and ultrasound-guided nerve blocks. After implementa-tion, opioid use in the ED fell by 38 percent within 5 months3. In 2017, Colo-rado also developed an ALTO program that led to a 36 percent reduction in opioid use among 10 EDs over 6 months4. For information on Opioid overdoses in Pinellas County, visit Pinellas County’s Opioid Task Force. Click here for more information about the ALTO program treatment pathways.

Select Reportable Diseases in Pinellas County

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Florida Department of Health
in Pinellas County 

205 Dr. MLK Jr. St. N.
St. Petersburg, FL 33701


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