Brucellosis is the most prevalent disease transmitted from animals to people in Mongolia. SDC’s Animal Health Project supported the Government of Mongolia in establishing a monitoring system for brucellosis control. Under this system, the quality of the livestock vaccination campaign is monitored and people are tested for brucellosis, making it possible to assess the long-term impact of the campaign. In the past three years, trainings have been been conducted for more than 50 veterinarians and physicians in all aimags, and the study protocol has been tested in all regions.
“Onsite Insights” looks deeper into brucellosis and its impact on livestock and people.
“I have been a victim of brucellosis for many years as a result of my occupation”
71-year-old J. Tserenbat is a former veterinarian who has suffered from brucellosis for many years. “This is a very horrible disease. You experience terrible headaches; your arms and legs and basically your whole body aches from pain,” he said. “One day your left arm aches, the next day your right one aches.”
He was first diagnosed with brucellosis in 1976 when he was working as a veterinarian in Gurvansaikhan soum in Dundgovi aimag. He had been perfectly healthy when he first began working as a vet, but after several years he began to have problems, which was when the brucellosis diagnosis was made. “Back then, we didn’t have any occupational tools to prevent ourselves from being infected when treating sick animals. That’s why I’m suffering from this disease.”
He has lost more than 80 percent of his working ability due to brucellosis. “What’s most terrible about brucellosis is that it affects all your inner organs. There’s hardly anything healthy left in my body.”
Dr D. Enkhbayar, Head of Mongolia’s Zoonosis Surveillance Department of the National Centre for Zoonotic Diseases, explains how brucellosis is transmitted and the harm it causes humans
Mongolia is rich with livestock – it’s the very basis of our livelihoods. Brucellosis is a zoonotic disease that is transmitted from animals to humans. If livestock are infected with brucellosis, many people – herders, vets and the people who process livestock products – can become infected. Mongolia is among those countries with the highest rate of human brucellosis infection in the world.
Brucellosis is a chronic disease which causes neurological and joints complications and internal organ disorders. It’s caused by the bacteria Brucella. It doesn’t directly affect the brain or nervous system and it doesn’t immediately elicit symptoms. It slowly causes chronic infection because it is located in the fluids of joints.
Symptoms include a high and prolonged fever, lethargy, sweating, and different complications in internal organs. Livestock brucellosis causes miscarriages in female livestock and orchitis in male animals. It also leads to infertility and decreases overall livestock productivity.
People usually become infected when they handle aborted livestock fetuses, placenta and fluid, and during slaughtering. Human brucellosis is sometimes overlooked and is hence not diagnosed. Most of those infected never seek medical assistance and try to treat themselves at home. People usually seek medical help when the disease has already begun to affect their joints. However, the good news is that brucellosis is curable and will not reoccur if a person doesn’t again come into contact with infected animals. However, if it becomes chronic, it’s hard to get rid of it completely. An important message is that it’s possible to prevent human brucellosis simply by observing basic hygiene practices after handling livestock products.
S. Batkhuyag, an officer at the Veterinary and Animal Breeding Agency in charge of projects, programmes and the brucellosis laboratory, explains current state policy on the elimination of brucellosis in Mongolia
A new strategy for the control and eradiction of animal brucellosis until 2021 has been developed in Mongolia. The main purpose of this strategy is to fight the infection through the vaccination of livestock, particularly young animals, and to ensure that people are taking appropriate preventive measures. Since 2011, all cattle, sheep and goats have been vaccinated at least once during mass vaccination campaigns within the framework of the “Mongolian Livestock Program” in order to fight brucellosis infection. The most effective method is the annual vaccination of all young animals using Mongolian-produced vaccinations.
In past three years, post- vaccination sero-monitoring has been implemented through collaboration with SDC’s Animal Health Project. This has ensured that brucellosis vaccinations are well monitored and that medical experts are able to determine the prevalence of brucellosis among the population. The Animal Health Project has developed a surveillance model to monitor and evaluate of the effectiveness of the brucellosis vaccination campaign.