Two people in Britain have been infected with an incurable dog disease which is now spreading between canines in the UK for the first time.
Brucella canis, a bacterial infection, can lead to infertility, lameness and pain in dogs.
Most cases in the UK have previously been isolated incidents among animals imported from areas like Eastern Europe, where the disease is endemic.
But Government experts today revealed that they have spotted the first known case of the disease spreading among animals in the UK, albeit at low levels. Officials spotted the linked cases among dogs in kennels.
The two human cases of Brucella canis were spotted as of July this year, health chiefs said. Cases among dogs in the UK have also skyrocketed in this time, with a record 91 already spotted this year.
Dr Christine Middlemiss, chief veterinary officer at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), told The Telegraph: ‘We have had spread of a case in the UK to another dog in the UK. It is through breeding in kennels.
‘There is not a lot – there is very little. But that is new for us.’
These UK-native cases of Brucella canis came from British dogs that had either had contact with an imported dog or were the offspring of an imported dog.
This means the disease isn’t considered endemic in the UK and is still officially classified as low risk.
Human Animal Infections and Risk Surveillance (HAIRS), a cross-Government group, today published a report on the risk Brucella canis poses.
HAIRS found that there is a ‘very low’ risk of someone in the population becoming infected.
However, dog breeders, people who work at vets or kennels and owners of infected dogs, are slightly more at risk of being exposed — but this is still classed as ‘low’, the HAIRS report states.
The group also found while the health risks of a Brucella canis infection were generally low, severe cases with life threatening complications had been reported and immunocompromised individuals could be at greater risk.
Only two cases in people in the UK have been confirmed.
The first was detected after attending hospital for their symptoms, while the second was found in an asymptomatic person working at a vets who was routinely tested after contact with an infected dog.
HAIRS recommended that dog breeders and charities importing dogs from overseas should carry out pre-export testing for the disease.
They also advised that vets treating dogs imported from overseas use appropriate PPE to help minimise the risk of a potential infection.