• Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

What are causes of brucellosis?

The cause of brucellosis is bacterial. Brucella bacteria can enter the human body through mucous membranes, breaks in the skin, the respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract, and even the conjunctiva. Unfortunately, these organisms can survive reasonably well within the body's cells, including different types of cells. These bacteria can be transported within the human cells via the lymphatic system or in the bloodstream to other organs. Any organ system can be involved, and both localized and systemic (body-wide) infections may occur. The bacteria can also replicate inside host cells and then be released when the cell dies. These bacteria go on to spread the infection to other human cells.

What are risk factors for brucellosis?

Risk factors for brucellosis include consuming unpasteurized milk or cheese, eating poorly cooked or raw meats, or associating with wild animals that may harbor the organisms (hunters, for example). Veterinarians, sheepherders, hunters, and others associated with animal processing and farming are at increased risk.

Is brucellosis contagious? How long is brucellosis contagious?

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), brucellosis is only weakly contagious because person-to-person spread of brucellosis is rare. Unfortunately, people can easily get the disease from eating or drinking unpasteurized or raw dairy products and can even become infected by inhaling aerosolized bacteria or become infected through breaks in the skin or mucous membranes.

Brucellosis is contagious as long as living bacteria are present in domestic and wild animals and/or their secretions, including milk products. In addition, the bacteria have been documented to survive in the environment for up to two years under favorable conditions (darkness, cold temperatures, and relatively high CO2 concentrations) and still cause disease.

What is the incubation period for brucellosis?

The incubation period (time between infection and the development of the disease) for brucellosis is considered to be highly variable, with a range of five days to five months, with a few patients reporting incubation periods as long as a year; the average incubation period is about two to four weeks.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/7/2016

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