Infectious Diseases

Updated 17 July 2015

Fear rare fever outbreak in the Western Cape may spread

There is concern that Brucellosis, that left two people ill on the Boeteka Game Farm and Wedding Venue in the Karoo, could affect more farms.

Agri Western Cape is worried that there could be an increase in reported cases of Brucellosis, which it says has already infected close to a thousand goats and two people on the Boeteka Game Farm and Wedding Venue outside Beaufort West.

The farm, which consists of approximately 18 000ha of prime Karoo landscape, is owned by the Viviers family, who operate the farm as a family business, according to its website.

Read: Rare fever: Western Cape keeping a close watch

"Boeteka also functions as a commercial sheep and goat farm and even have a registered abattoir on the farm.  Karoo Lamb, neatly packed, is available upon pre-order."

It further states that it offers accommodation options from fully furnished chalets, a traditional farmhouse without electricity to a bush camp.

Wife falls ill

In January this year, the farmer’s wife fell ill with Brucellosis - a bacterial infection that is usually transmitted to humans when consuming unpasteurised milk products. She contracted the disease through an infected goat.

Agri Western Cape pointed out that a report by the agricultural office in Beaufort West indicated that a second person and a dog had contracted the disease.

"The producer, Mr Appie Viviers’s wife, Marietjie, one of his farm workers, Mr Marius Pettinger, and one if his dogs, contracted the disease from the goats," said Agri Western Cape CEO Carl Opperman in a statement.

"A herd of 800 goats was diagnosed with the disease. From a herd of 400 cattle, three have already tested positive. The goats and cattle are now being kept apart and may not be moved."

Under quarantine

According to the report, the farm has been quarantined since February 2015, however, the Western Cape department of economic opportunities and agriculture indicated that the farm has been closed off since March.

Opperman expressed concern that the disease could spread to neighbouring farms.

"We fear that the fences on farms may not be of such a nature to say with certainty that the animals can’t migrate to neighbouring farms. It is also extremely difficult to keep goats in a fenced camp."

Opperman said that goats and cattle on the farm were currently being tested and slaughtered.

"The process can take months and can increase the chances that the disease can spread. This can have financial implications for farms in the area," he said.

There are two types of Brucellosis

Brucella melitensis is associated with sheep and goats and is more severe in humans, while Brucella abortus mainly affects cattle and causes abortions.

"Humans that come into contact with the remains [aborted foetuses] or any of the remains (for instance at a butcher) of an infected animal can contract the bacteria in this way," said Health24 resident doctor, Heidi van Deventer.

"When a person is infected with brucellosis, they can transmit the disease sexually as well."

Van Deventer said the symptoms of the disease were non-specific and vague, but a fever that comes and goes was one of the characteristics of the disease, as well as weakness, drenching night sweats, shivers, loss of appetite, backache, headache and depression.

"The disease is treated with antibiotics, usually for a prolonged period," she said.

No vaccination for humans

Van Deventer warned that there was no vaccination against Brucellosis in humans.  

"The spread of brucellosis is usually kept under control by not using unpasteurised dairy products," she said.

Western Cape MEC for Economic Opportunities and Agriculture Alan Winde said on Monday this week that chances of the disease spreading to other people or neighbouring farms was not expected.

The type of Brucella detected in the Karoo still needed to be established. If it is found to be Brucella melitensis, the farm’s entire herd faces being slaughtered.

The department said it was still waiting on a report from the state vets on the situation.

"The test results should be available in the next few weeks."

Also read:

If you had flu, it most likely was swine flu

Rare deadly disease scare grips Durban

What you should know about food poisoning

Image: Brucellosis from Shutterstock.


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