The bacteria infects livestock such as sheep, goats, cattle, deer, elk, and pigs. The infection can pass to humans through:
- Contaminated food or drinks undercooked or unpasteurized animal products
- Inhaling the bacteria
- Contact through cuts in the skin
- Fluids splashed in the eye
Rarely, it can pass between people by:
- Breastfeeding—if mother has infection
- Sexual contact
- A transplant from an infected donor
Your risk may be higher if you:
- Drink raw milk
- Eat undercooked meat, specially organ meat
- Work around animals such as dairy workers, sheep and goat herders, farmers, veterinarians, and animal processing workers
Symptoms often appear within 2 to 4 weeks after infection. Some may appear earlier or several months later. Early symptoms may involve:
- General feeling of illness
- Get tired easily
- Muscle or joint pain
- Fever (may be lower in day, and increase at night)
- Severe headache and backache
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
Some symptoms may last longer or happen later such as:
- Recurrent fevers
- Weight loss
- Swelling of organs such as heart, liver, or spleen
Women who have the infection early in their pregnancy may have a higher risk of miscarriage .
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. Questions about travel history may also be asked. A physical exam will be done. There are a number of issues that may cause your symptoms. Tests will help your doctor find a cause. Tests may include:
Brucellosis goes away on its own in most people. Some health problems can linger. Early care may help to lower the chance of long-term health problems.
- Antibiotics—to treat the infection. Treatment may need 2 or 3 different antibiotics at the same time.
- Surgery—for complications that are not treated with antibiotics.
Steps to lower the chances of brucellosis include:
- Avoid unpasteurized milk and dairy foods.
- Wear rubber gloves and goggles when working with livestock, their bodily fluids, or carcasses. Cover open sores on your skin.
- Keep up with livestock vaccines. Talk to a veterinarian or your local health department for help.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention https://www.cdc.gov
US Department of Agriculture https://www.usda.gov
Alberta Health http://www.health.alberta.ca
Public Health Agency of Canada https://www.canada.ca
Brucellosis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/brucellosis. Updated September 13, 2017. Accessed September 27, 2019.
Brucellosis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115233/Brucellosis . Updated August 4, 2017. Accessed September 27, 2019.
Patel PJ, Kolawole TM, Sharma N, a-Faqih S. Sonographic findings in scrotal brucellosis. J Clin Ultrasound. 1988;16(7):483-486.
- Reviewer: David L. Horn, MD, FACP
- Review Date: 09/2019
- Update Date: 09/27/2019