What is Brucellosis?
Brucellosis is an infection caused by Brucella species bacteria.  It is an animal-borne disease that can be spread to humans. In animals the disease is also known as contagious abortion or Bang's disease. In humans, it's known as undulant fever because of the severe intermittent fevers.

How common is Brucellosis infection? 
People in certain occupations or settings may face increased exposure to the bacteria that cause Brucellosis. These can include:

  • Slaughterhouse workers
  • Meat-packing employees
  • Veterinarians
  • Laboratory workers
  • People who consume raw milk
  • People who consume wild game animals, including wild hogs, elk, bison, caribou, and moose

What are the symptoms of Brucellosis?
Brucellosis can cause of range of signs and symptoms, some of which may present for prolonged periods of time.  Initial symptoms can include:

  • fever
  • sweats
  • malaise
  • anorexia
  • headache
  • pain in muscles, joints, and/or back
  • fatigue

Some signs and symptoms may persist for longer periods of time. Others reoccur or may never go away. These can include:

  • recurrent fevers
  • arthritis
  • swelling of the testicle and scrotum area
  • swelling of the heart (endocarditis)
  • neurologic symptoms (in up to 5% of all cases)
  • chronic fatigue
  • depression
  • swelling of the liver and/or spleen

The time it takes for symptoms to appear after exposure to Brucella is considered to be highly variable, with a range of five days to five months, with a few cases reporting periods as long as a year.  The average is about two to four weeks.

The most obvious signs in pregnant animals are abortion or birth of weak calves. Milk production may be reduced from changes in the normal lactation period caused by abortions and delayed conceptions

How is Brucellosis spread?
The bacteria are transmitted from animals to humans by ingestion through infected food products, direct contact with an infected animal, or inhalation of particles. Brucellosis is commonly spread in animals by direct contact with infected animals or with an environment that has been contaminated with body fluids from infected animals.

When to call your doctor
Consult your healthcare provider if you have symptoms consistent with Brucellosis and have exposure to animals that can spread Brucellosis.

How is Brucellosis diagnosed?
Brucellosis is diagnosed initially by the patient's history of exposure to likely sources of Brucella bacteria and the patient's clinical symptoms. Brucellosis can be confirmed in a laboratory by finding bacteria in samples of blood, bone marrow or other bodily fluids. Additional tests can also be done to detect antibodies against the bacteria.

How is Brucellosis infection treated?
The infection can be treated with antibiotics for 6-8 weeks. People who are immuno-suppressed or pregnant should be treated in consultation with an infectious disease specialist.

How do I avoid Brucellosis infection?
It is possible to prevent or reduce the chances of developing Brucellosis. Simple methods such as avoiding known infected animals, never drinking unpasteurized milk. If working with potentially infected animals, wear gloves and a mask and wash hands to reduce the risk of infection.

Because Brucellosis is mainly a disease involving livestock, vaccines have been developed that are effective for cattle, sheep, and goats.  There is no vaccine available for humans to prevent Brucellosis.