Brucellosis

Brucellosis is an infectious disease caused by bacteria. The bacteria can spread from animals to humans when they are in contact with infected animals or animal products that are contaminated. The most commonly infected animals are sheep, cattle, goats, pigs, dogs.

Symptoms of Brucella infection may include fever, sweats, loss of appetite, fatigue, headache, muscle/joint pain, and miscarriage in pregnant women. Symptoms can begin anywhere from 5 days to 6 months after exposure, and some may present for prolonged periods of time or never go away.

To minimize exposure risks and prevent infection, ADPH advises only consuming dairy products that have been pasteurized. If you are not sure that the dairy product is pasteurized, do not consume it. If you are at risk for exposure, either occupationally or through leisure activities such as hunting, you should protect yourself by wearing rubber gloves, goggles, gowns, or aprons.

Transmission

Eating undercooked meat or consuming unpasteurized/raw dairy products:

  • The most common way to be infected is by eating or drinking unpasteurized/raw dairy products. When sheep, goats, cows, or camels are infected, their milk becomes contaminated with the bacteria.
  • If the milk from infected animals is not pasteurized, the infection will be transmitted to people who consume the milk and/or cheese products.

People who hunt animals may also be at risk. When they are in contact with infected animals, exposure to the bacteria may occur through:

  • skin wounds or mucous membranes 
  • accidentally ingesting undercooked meat
  • inhaling the bacteria while dressing their game. Commonly infected animals include: bison, elk, caribou, moose and wild hogs (feral swine).

Occupational Exposure 

Breathing in the bacteria that causes brucellosis may also lead to infection. This risk is generally greater for people in laboratories that work with the bacteria. 

Occupational exposure is a risk for workers who have close contact with animals or animal excretions (newborn animals, fetuses, and excretions that may result from birth). Such workers may include:

  • slaughterhouse workers
  • meat-packing plant employees
  • veterinarians

CDC Feature – Hunters: Protect Yourself from Brucellosis

Person-to-person spread of brucellosis is extremely rare. Infected mothers who are breast-feeding may transmit the infection to their infants. Sexual transmission has been rarely reported. While uncommon, transmission may also occur via tissue transplantation or blood transfusions.

Symptoms

Initial Illness:

  • Fever Sweating
  • Weakness
  • Tiredness
  • Decreased Appetite
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Headache

If the illness is not treated or comes back, you may experience:

  • Swelling of the heart, liver, and/or spleen
  • Chronic tiredness
  • Swelling of the testicle and scrotum area
  • Depression
  • Neurologic symptoms (5% of cases)
  • Recurrent fevers
  • Arthritis

Have you Consumed Raw Milk? 

If you have recently consumed raw or unpasteurized milk, you may be at risk. Please see this notice regarding potential Brucellosis exposure and help us investigate by filing out our survey.

Resources

Health Information for Individuals Potentially Exposed to Brucella (RB51) from Raw Dairy Products

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Brucellosis

CDC Food Safety Alert

RB51 Letter to Consumers from PA





Page last updated: March 20, 2019