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What Is Brucellosis?

What Are the Risk Factors for Brucellosis?

In the U.S., brucellosis is more common in men. Men who become sick with the disease most often work or have worked around livestock. Brucellosis is uncommon in children.

You are more likely to get brucellosis if you:

  • Eat or drink unpasteurized dairy products from cows, goats, or other animals that are infected with the bacteria
  • Eat other unpasteurized cheeses called "village cheeses." These come from high-risk regions, including the Mediterranean
  • Travel to areas where Brucella is common
  • Work in a meat-processing plant or slaughterhouse
  • Work on a farm

Brucellosis has also been reported in:

  • Hunters in the U.S.
  • Veterinarians who have immunized cattle with the Brucella vaccine

What Are the Symptoms of Brucellosis?

General symptoms of brucellosis are often vague and similar to the flu. They may include:

  • Fever (the most common symptom, with high "spikes" that usually occur in the afternoon)
  • Back pain
  • Body-wide aches and pains
  • Poor appetite and weight loss
  • Headache
  • Night sweats
  • Weakness

Symptoms usually appear within five to 30 days after you come in contact with the bacteria. How bad your symptoms are depends on what type of Brucella is making you sick:

  • B. abortus usually causes mild or moderate symptoms, but they are more likely to become chronic (long-lasting).
  • B. canis symptoms may come and go. They are similar to B. abortus infection, although people with B. canis often have vomiting and diarrhea.
  • B. suis may cause areas of infection (called abscesses) in different organs.
  • B. melitensis may cause sudden and severe symptoms, which may lead to disability.

How Is Brucellosis Diagnosed?

Your doctor will examine you. You may have:

  • A swollen liver
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • A swollen spleen
  • Unexplained fever

Blood tests will be done to diagnose the infection and determine what type of Brucella is making you sick. Proper identification of the bacteria helps pinpoint the source of the infection.

How Is Brucellosis Treated?

Brucellosis can be difficult to treat. If you have brucellosis, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics. Antibiotics commonly used to treat brucellosis include:

  • tetracycline
  • streptomycin
  • doxycycline
  • rifampin

You will be given more than one kind of antibiotic.

You must take the antibiotics for many weeks to prevent the disease from returning.

Recovery can take weeks, even months. Patients who receive treatment within one month of the start of symptoms can be cured of the disease.

What Are the Complications of Brucellosis?

Severe brucellosis may cause:

  • Infection of the central nervous system
  • Endocarditis (infection of the lining of the heart or valves)
  • Liver abscess

Brucellosis can cause long-lasting symptoms that are similar to chronic fatigue syndrome. The symptoms can lead to disability. They may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Fevers that come and go
  • Joint pain

Brucellosis in a pregnant woman may lead to:

  • Miscarriage
  • Birth defects in the baby

Death from brucellosis is uncommon. Most brucellosis-related deaths are due to endocarditis.

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