Brucellosis is a disease caused by certain bacteria of the Brucella genus; some types are capable of causing illness in humans. It is considered a zoonotic disease, meaning the disease is found in animals and can be passed to people.
Brucellosis is spread primarily from animals. Brucellosis can be carried by a wide variety of wild and domestic animals (such as pets and livestock). People can become infected by coming into contact with fluids and tissues from infected animals or eating undercooked meat or unpasteurized dairy (e.g. raw milk, certain cheeses).
Brucellosis can be spread in other ways, too. While rare, a woman can pass the infection to her baby while pregnant and through breast milk after the child is born.
Symptoms of brucellosis vary widely. Common symptoms include:
- night sweats,
- general discomfort,
- poor appetite,
- joint paint,
- muscle pain,
- stomach pain,
More serious symptoms can occur when the bacteria affects other organs in the body including the brain, eyes, heart, liver, spleen and sexual organs. It can also cause people to have reduced numbers of certain blood cells.
Antibiotics are important for successful treatment. Antibiotics are typically used to treat brucellosis. Often times multiple antibiotics will be used. These decisions should only be made by a healthcare provider.
Avoid unpasteurized/raw dairy. Because ill animals can appear healthy and still pass the infection through the milk they produce, people should avoid eating or drinking unpasteurized dairy products. Purchasing raw milk from a certified source DOES NOT reduce the risk whatsoever.
Do not eat raw or undercooked meat. People can get brucellosis from eating the undercooked or raw meat from an infected animal. Be sure to cook all meats to recommended temperatures.
Protect yourself. Veterinarians, laboratory technicians and others who may come into contact with sick animals should wear appropriate protective gear to avoid exposure.
Controlling the disease in animals. In the United States, brucellosis is relatively rare and efforts are ongoing to control the disease in animal populations.