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First Case of Incurable Dog Disease Jumping to Humans Found in Stoke-on-Trent

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The UK Health Security Agency has confirmed the first human case of Brucella canis in Stoke-on-Trent. The disease, previously confined to dogs, is now spreading within the UK, raising concerns among health experts and pet owners alike.

Wendy Hayes, a 61-year-old grandmother from the Potteries, is the first known human case of Brucella canis in the UK. She contracted the disease from a Belarusian rescue dog she was fostering. The heartbreaking aftermath led to all five of her dogs being euthanised. Wendy experienced severe symptoms, including high temperature, chills, and severe headaches, exacerbated by her immune-compromised condition.

The UK Health Security Agency has confirmed three human cases, with Wendy being the first. The disease is also spreading among dogs, with 91 known cases this year. Dr Christine Middlemiss, chief veterinary officer at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), stated that the spread is new for the UK and is primarily happening through breeding in kennels.

The disease is believed to have spread from British dogs that came into contact with imported dogs or were offspring of imported dogs. Although the disease is still officially classed as low-risk, the increasing number of cases has alarmed authorities.

A report by Human Animal Infections and Risk Surveillance (HAIRS) found a “very low” risk for the general population but noted that dog breeders, kennel workers, and vets are at slightly higher risk. The report also highlighted that immunocompromised individuals could be at greater risk.

In light of the rising cases, scientists are considering implementing a screening process at UK borders to prevent infected animals from entering the country. HAIRS has recommended pre-export testing for dogs and the use of appropriate PPE for vets treating imported dogs.

For Wendy Hayes, the emotional toll has been devastating. “The life went out of the house. It didn’t feel like home,” she said. Wendy is now advocating for a ban on imported pets, stressing the need for stringent measures to prevent the spread of zoonotic diseases.

The rise in Brucella canis cases comes amid increasing concerns about imported dogs, particularly from Eastern Europe. Romania alone accounted for over 70,000 animals imported to Britain in 2020 and 2021. The conflict in neighbouring Ukraine has further raised concerns about the spread of diseases.

The first human case of Brucella canis in the UK serves as a wake-up call for both pet owners and health authorities. While the risk to the general population remains low, the emotional and health toll on affected individuals and their families is significant. As the disease spreads among the canine population, it’s crucial for the government to take immediate action to contain it and safeguard public health.

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