Today’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports, published by the CDC, describes Campylobacter jejuni infection in two men. Campylobacter is a zoonotic bacterium that causes diarrhea (and sometime severe complications) in people after it’s ingested. It’s usually a foodborne disease, but any method that leads to the bacterium reaching the mouth and being swallowed can result in to infection. This report describes a rather unusual method of infection.
This summer, the Wyoming Department of Health investigated two cases of C. jejuni infection. Both people worked on a local sheep ranch and got sick at the same time. Both had typical campylobacteriosis disease with diarrhea, cramps, fever, nausea and vomiting. One was hospitalized but both recovered. The interesting part is how they got infected. It turns out the men were involved in a multiday "event" to castrate and dock tails of 1600 lambs. Ten other people were also involved and they didn’t get sick. The difference between these two and the other ten? The two infected men used their teeth to castrate some of the lambs. Animal welfare issues aside, this is just stupid. (I doubt anyone’s looking at this but these idiots shouldn’t be allowed to care for animals.) I don’t see how anyone with an iota of common sense wouldn’t think this is a bad idea in the current day and age. A very long time ago, apparently the "bit and spit" technique of castrating lambs (see photo, click for source) was relatively common practice. But like so many things that people used to do, there are much better (and safer, and infinitely more hygienic) ways of doing this nowadays.
Hopefully, they learned their lesson. Additionally, hopefully the farm owner takes some responsibility to make sure their personnel don’t act like idiots and that someone investigates the animal cruelty aspect.
Photo: In "the old days" during castration of lambs, after opening the scrotal sac with a sharp blade, the testicles were often removed using the teeth, because it was faster than attempting to do so with an instrument. This technique is (almost) no longer practiced (except for at least two men in Wyoming, apparently). Photo source: http://old-photos.blogspot.com (used with permission)