MHBA Animal Health Series

Bang’s disease or Brucellosis is caused by the organism brucella abortus and is spread from the vaginal discharge of an infected cow or from an aborted fetus. Brucellosis or “contagious abortion” causes abortion and premature births in cattle usually between the fifth and eight month of gestation. The infection is concentrated in the reproductive organs of the animal where it localizes in the uterus, udder and placenta of the female and testicles of the male. The disease can cause “undulant fever” in humans through the intake of infected milk. While the occurrence has been drastically reduced in modern times due to aggressive vaccination programs, failure to meet the window of opportunity can have devastating consequences for a uniformed or unsuspecting buyer. Bangs vaccinations are required by most states but not all as most are able to maintain the status designated as “Brucellosis Free.” Although state and federal regulations have helped to control the disease, there is still a threat.
Humans can become infected with the bacteria by either eating or drinking something contaminated with Brucella, breathing in the organism or having the the organism enter through a skin wound. While ingestion is the most common source of the contamination, hunters and butchers may be infected through skin wounds or by accidental ingestion of the bacteria after cleaning deer, Elk, Moose, or wild pigs. Encounters with infected herds of wild game remain the primary reason for continuation of a regulated vaccination program.
States having the vaccination requirement also have established timeframes for delivery. Most including, California mandate the vaccination be provided to females between the ages of 4-12 months. This vaccination must be given by a licensed veterinary and appropriate documentation including a numbered ear tattoo is required.

Symptoms and Transmission:
• Abortions, retained placenta, weak calves and infertility frequently occurs
• Milk produced by an infected cow may also be contaminated with the organism
• The organism is usually transmitted orally but can penetrate unbroken skin or drainage from an infected eye
• Breeding bulls which are infected, can transmit the disease to cows at the time of service by infected semen
• Infected animals are slaughtered, infected herds quarantined, and carrier animals identified and traced back to their place or origin.

Recovery, Testing and Infected Animals:
• There is no treatment for Brucellosis
• Diagnosis is made by a blood test of the dam and examination of the fetus
• Some degree of immunity as animals that abort can conceive again and carry the fetuses to term, although the disease remains in a latent form and the infected animal remains a source of infection for others
• Infected animals are slaughtered, infected herds quarantined, and carrier animals identified and traced back to their place of origin
• Buy replacement animals only from a clean herd, have aborted fetuses checked.

As there is no treatment for Brucellosis, the main source of prevention is accomplished by official calf hood vaccinations of heifer calves. An accredited veterinarian must provide these vaccinations at calf ages of two-four months with standard dosage vaccine, or from four to twelve months using reduced dosage vaccine. Each calf must be identified by an official vaccination in compliance with state and federal regulations. Quarantines are imposed on infected herds by state and federal authorities until the heard has been proven free of the disease.
When it comes to the Bang’s vaccination, it is Breeder and Buyer beware. Never buy a heifer without an appropriate state regulated vaccination, documentation and accompanying ear tag. Breeders should never sell a female without providing proof of Bang’s vaccination. In our state, females over the age of 12 months can never be vaccinated; therefore, they can never be exposed to other animals through shows or sales. Animals vaccinated after this age usually test positive thus requiring the whole herd to be quarantined; therefore be a responsible breeder and vaccinate your animals prior to their first birthday.

Brucellosis. (2010, September 6). Retrieved from Cattle Today.
Bucellosis Contagious Abortion Bang’s Disease. (2010, September 6). Retrieved from
Bucellosis in Cattle. In Merck Veterinary Manual.
Haynes, N. B. (1978). Keeping Livestock Healthly. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing, L.L.C.
Thomas, H. S. (1998). Storey’s Guide to Raising Beef Cattle. Storey Publishing.

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