Woman recalls first symptoms after catching incurable dog disease spreading in the UK

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Wendy Hayes, 61, caught Brucella canis from a rescue dog she was fostering and then had to put down all five of her pet dogs after most of them also tested positive

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Iona Young

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Hayley Parker

07:35, 20 SEP 2023

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Wendy Hayes with Moosha the Belarusian rescue dog (Image: Wendy Hayes / SWNS)

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A grandmother who became the first case of a human catching a disease that is normally confined to dogs suffered from serious symptoms before she was diagnosed.

Wendy Hayes caught Brucella canis from a Belarusian rescue dog she was fostering in 2022. The then 61-year-old had to make the heartbreaking decision to put all five of her pet dogs to sleep.

READ MORE: Edinburgh city centre road closed after collision involving 'bus and pedestrian'

The incurable disease is an incurable bacterial infection that leads to infertility in dogs. It was previously only seen in isolated cases in animals imported from areas such as Eastern Europe.

However, the UK Health Security Agency has confirmed it is spreading within the UK and three human cases have now been identified, with Wendy's the first.

The cases are higher among pooches, with 91 already known to have caught it this year as it is passed through the the country's canine population for the first time ever, reports StokeonTrentLive.

While 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."

It is understood the spread of the infection in Britain came from British dogs that either came into contact with an imported dog or were the offspring of an imported dog. The disease isn't yet considered endemic and is still officially classed as low-risk.

A cross-government group, Human Animal Infections and Risk Surveillance (HAIRS), published a report on the risk Brucella canis poses and found a 'very low' risk of Brits becoming infected. Dog breeders, kennel workers, vets and owners of infected dogs are at a little bit more risk although still classed as "low", the report states.

As a result, scientists are considering implementing a screening process at the UK border to stop infected animals getting into Britain. Of the three cases, HAIRS described two in detail.

One person's infection was detected while they attended the hospital for symptoms. In another case, a person working at vets who was routinely tested was found to be asymptomatic.

In Wendy's case, she had only had Moosha for three days before the dog started aborting all her puppies, which took 12 hours. She was initially put on a 'stay at home' notice due to fears it might be rabies until the actual cause was diagnosed.

The grandmother, who lives in the Potteries region in Staffordshire, suffered a high temperature, chills, shivers, bad shakes, severe headaches, severe backache and low blood pressure. Because she was immune-compromised the disease hit her harder than it would most people.

But the biggest despair for her came when she had to put down all of her dogs - Jack Russell Benson, 13, Patterdale Cross Dougie, 11, Pug Tiny, four, and an unknown breed pooch named Max, nine.

Speaking about her ordeal last year, Wendy said: "It felt so unreal, to think about how many people are in the UK, to think that this is the first ever for this type of strain. The doctors were actually quite excited.”

Wendy, who is married with a son and two grandchildren, added that she most likely contracted the disease through Moosha's birthing fluids and the rescue dog had to be put down. She is now calling for a ban on imported pets.

It was not known that Moosha was carrying the disease until Wendy sought medical help after becoming ill. Speaking in 2022, she said: “I went into hospital on the May 23. I went to my GP because I felt quite poorly and he sent me straight up to the hospital that day.

"I hadn’t been feeling well before that, but I put it down to stress after Moosha was taken. I was moved to the infectious disease ward at Stoke Hospital. I didn’t get a diagnosis until Friday because they had a very clued-up doctor who suggested it was Brucella canis.

"Even though I felt ill, you don’t stop worrying about the dogs. I was already in isolation, in infectious diseases you can’t leave your room. It was a tough time, there was no one to talk to.

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Wendy was allowed home a few days later but had nurses coming to visit her for the next two and a half weeks to administer five lots of antibiotics. She said: "I am still on two tablets for another three or four weeks.

“It affected my husband and my son. There were so few people, as no one understood the disease. I couldn’t have the grandchildren over because of the risk of the bacteria. They need to stop messing about and just do something.

"Make it compulsory for all zoonotic diseases. They boast about being rabies-free for years. It's just around the corner waiting to happen. We need testing for it. And we need to come down hard on those bad rescues.”

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News. Wendy Hayes, 61, caught Brucella canis from a rescue dog she was fostering and then had to put down all five of her pet dogs after most of them also tested positive. edinburghlive. Bookmark. Share. Comments. News. By. Iona Young. Reporter. Hayley Parker. 07:35, 20 SEP 2023. Bookmark. Wendy Hayes with Moosha the Belarusian rescue dog (Image: Wendy Hayes / SWNS) Don't miss any of Edinburgh Live's biggest stories - sign up to our daily email newsletter. More Newsletters. Invalid email. Something went wrong, please try again later. More Newsletters. We use your sign-up to provide content in ways you’ve consented to and improve our understanding of you. This may include adverts from us and third parties based on our knowledge of you. More info. Thank you for subscribing! We have more newsletters. Show me. See Our. Privacy Notice. See Our. Privacy Notice. Don't miss any of Edinburgh Live's biggest stories - sign up to our daily email newsletter. Invalid email. Something went wrong, please try again later. No thanks, close. We use your sign-up to provide content in ways you’ve consented to and improve our understanding of you. This may include adverts from us and third parties based on our knowledge of you. More info. Thank you for subscribing! We have more newsletters. Show Me. No thanks, close. See our Privacy Notice. A grandmother who became the first case of a human catching a disease that is normally confined to dogs suffered from serious symptoms before she was diagnosed. Wendy Hayes caught Brucella canis from a Belarusian rescue dog she was fostering in 2022. The then 61-year-old had to make the heartbreaking decision to put all five of her pet dogs to sleep. READ MORE: Edinburgh city centre road closed after collision involving 'bus and pedestrian' The incurable disease is an incurable bacterial infection that leads to infertility in dogs. It was previously only seen in isolated cases in animals imported from areas such as Eastern Europe. However, the UK Health Security Agency has confirmed it is spreading within the UK and three human cases have now been identified, with Wendy's the first. The cases are higher among pooches, with 91 already known to have caught it this year as it is passed through the the country's canine population for the first time ever, reports StokeonTrentLive. While 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." It is understood the spread of the infection in Britain came from British dogs that either came into contact with an imported dog or were the offspring of an imported dog. The disease isn't yet considered endemic and is still officially classed as low-risk. A cross-government group, Human Animal Infections and Risk Surveillance (HAIRS), published a report on the risk Brucella canis poses and found a 'very low' risk of Brits becoming infected. Dog breeders, kennel workers, vets and owners of infected dogs are at a little bit more risk although still classed as "low", the report states. As a result, scientists are considering implementing a screening process at the UK border to stop infected animals getting into Britain. Of the three cases, HAIRS described two in detail. One person's infection was detected while they attended the hospital for symptoms. In another case, a person working at vets who was routinely tested was found to be asymptomatic. In Wendy's case, she had only had Moosha for three days before the dog started aborting all her puppies, which took 12 hours. She was initially put on a 'stay at home' notice due to fears it might be rabies until the actual cause was diagnosed. The grandmother, who lives in the Potteries region in Staffordshire, suffered a high temperature, chills, shivers, bad shakes, severe headaches, severe backache and low blood pressure. Because she was immune-compromised the disease hit her harder than it would most people. But the biggest despair for her came when she had to put down all of her dogs - Jack Russell Benson, 13, Patterdale Cross Dougie, 11, Pug Tiny, four, and an unknown breed pooch named Max, nine. Speaking about her ordeal last year, Wendy said: "It felt so unreal, to think about how many people are in the UK, to think that this is the first ever for this type of strain. The doctors were actually quite excited.” Wendy, who is married with a son and two grandchildren, added that she most likely contracted the disease through Moosha's birthing fluids and the rescue dog had to be put down. She is now calling for a ban on imported pets. It was not known that Moosha was carrying the disease until Wendy sought medical help after becoming ill. Speaking in 2022, she said: “I went into hospital on the May 23. I went to my GP because I felt quite poorly and he sent me straight up to the hospital that day. "I hadn’t been feeling well before that, but I put it down to stress after Moosha was taken. I was moved to the infectious disease ward at Stoke Hospital. I didn’t get a diagnosis until Friday because they had a very clued-up doctor who suggested it was Brucella canis. "Even though I felt ill, you don’t stop worrying about the dogs. I was already in isolation, in infectious diseases you can’t leave your room. It was a tough time, there was no one to talk to. Sign up for Edinburgh Live newsletters for more headlines straight to your inbox. Wendy was allowed home a few days later but had nurses coming to visit her for the next two and a half weeks to administer five lots of antibiotics. She said: "I am still on two tablets for another three or four weeks. “It affected my husband and my son. There were so few people, as no one understood the disease. I couldn’t have the grandchildren over because of the risk of the bacteria. They need to stop messing about and just do something. "Make it compulsory for all zoonotic diseases. They boast about being rabies-free for years. It's just around the corner waiting to happen. We need testing for it. And we need to come down hard on those bad rescues.” Story Saved. You can find this story in   My Bookmarks. Or by navigating to the user icon in the top right. EdinburghLive. Facebook. Twitter. Comment. More On. Animals. Health. Real Life.