Symptoms of incurable disease that can jump from dogs to humans as three people are infected
| Last updated
As a disease that can jump from dogs to humans spreads in Britain for the first time, here are the symptoms you should to be aware of.
News of the spread of brucella canis was confirmed this week by Dr Christine Middlemiss, the chief veterinary officer at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, after it was previously found only in important animals.
There has also been an increase in the number of human tests for the disease conducted by the NHS, with numbers doubling, according to The Telegraph.
The disease leads to infertility in dogs, and cannot be cured. It can spread to humans through dogs by contact with infected fluids, especially during breeding or birth.
Canines that have contracted brucella canis will typically display the following symptoms: lethargy; swollen lymph nodes; difficulty walking; back pain; weak, sickly newborn puppies; vaginal discharge; swollen testicles; and inflammation of the skin around the scrotum.
The disease can be difficult to detect, but tests carried out by vets include spinal x-rays, blood counts and special antibody and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for brucellosis.
In humans, the UK Health and Security Agency (UKHSA) states that people who have caught the infection may be asymptomatic, or show non-specific symptoms ranging from fever, headache and weight loss, to severe illness and complications including meningitis and septicaemia.
Symptoms can also include with extreme tiredness and back and joint pain.
In some cases it can takes months or years before symptoms develop in chronically infected individuals.
However, while the symptoms for humans sound concerning, the good news is that the UKHSA does not consider the disease to be highly infectious to humans.
In a report on the disease, the agency stated: "Historically, Brucella canis (B. canis) has not been regarded as endemic in the UK. Since summer 2020, there has been an increase in the number of reports of B. canis infection in dogs, the majority of which have been in dogs directly imported into the UK from Eastern Europe.
"B. canis is a recognised zoonotic pathogen, but human cases are rarely reported globally; most likely due to the non-specific nature of infection, generally mild symptoms, lack of validated serology tests and because it is generally acknowledged to be less virulent to humans than other members of the Brucella genus."
The agency has added that the probability of infection is considered 'very low' for the general UK population, with the impact listed as 'very low to low'.