Brucellosis

  • 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.

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What are risk factors for brucellosis?

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

How does brucellosis spread to humans?

The most common way individuals become infected with brucellosis is by eating or drinking unpasteurized or raw dairy products. If animals like sheep, goats, cows, or camels are infected with Brucella, the milk they produce is contaminated with the bacteria. Another way that brucellosis spreads to humans is by inhalation of the bacteria. Although this risk is generally associated with people who work in laboratories studying Brucella organisms, it is possible that people working in meat-processing areas could be exposed to the bacteria by inhalation of droplets from contaminated meat (cattle, sheep). The bacteria can also infect humans through breaks in the skin or through the mucous membranes. Commonly infected animals that are hunted that may contain Brucella are caribou, moose, wild hogs (feral hogs), elk, and bison. Person-to-person transmission of brucellosis is rare but may occur during sex, blood transfusions, transplacental transfer, or even in contact with menstrual blood.

What are symptoms and signs of brucellosis?

Brucellosis can cause a wide range of symptoms; some symptoms appear early while others may develop over a long time period. Initial or early symptoms may include fever, fatigue, sweating, pain in the muscles and joints, pain in the back, and/or loss of appetite. Over time, the fevers may become recurrent, joint pain may worsen, and organ swelling may occur in the heart, testicles, liver and/or spleen, resulting in decreased functioning of these organs. Some people will develop a skin rash and/or micro-abscesses (subcutaneous granulomas) in the skin. In addition, patients may have chronic fatigue, depression, and neurologic symptoms. It takes about two to four weeks (latent period) after initial exposure for most people to start showing symptoms.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/23/2015
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