Brucellosis - an overview

Caused by bacteria from the genus called Brucella, Brucellosis is the infectious disease that results. Brucellosis is most commonly caused by the species Brucella melitensis, Brucella suis, Brucella canis, and Brucella abortus. The Brucella bacterium are transferred between animals of many kinds and result in diseases for various species of vertebrates. When humans come in direct contact with such infected animals or infected animal products, they contract Brucellosis.

Brucellosis is known to have flu like symptoms such as sweats, back pains, physical weakness, fever, and headaches. Brucellosis can also spread infection to the heart or the brain and the spine. In severe cases, Brucellosis can result in persistent, long-lasting joint pain, fatigue, and reoccurring fever.

Fortunately, Brucellosis is not often found in the United States and there are usually approximately 150 cases per year. The infectious disease is more often found in places where disease is more common among the animal population. Such countries typically lack large scale programs to control disease in animals. High risk areas for Brucellosis include North Africa, Greece, Turkey, France, Spain, Italy, Central America, South America, Africa, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and the Caribbean.

Tourists in these areas should be cautious of unpasteurized cheese from these areas. Contaminated dairy products are the most frequent sources of infection for humans contracting Brucellosis. Brucellosis can also be contracted through inhaling the bacterium or through an open wound. Individuals whose jobs entail being in a laboratory setting with cultures of the Brucella bacterium should take caution against inhalation and contamination of even the smallest open wounds. Workers in the meat industry as well as vets should take care of infection.

It is very rare that Brucellosis spreads from one individual to another, however, it is not unheard of. Women who are breast feeding may spread the disease to their babies. There have also been cases of transmission through sexual contact. It is not impossible, either, that transmission of Brucellosis take place through a tissue transplant.

There is no vaccine available for Brucellosis so do take caution when handling animals, animal products, or live cultures. Avoid unpasteurized dairy products, especially when traveling outside of the United States.

There is a species of Brucella that targets dogs called Brucella canis. There have been instances of transmission from infected dogs to humans, however, this rarely results in disease for humans. Vets who are more likely to come in contact with the blood and bodily fluids of pets should take more caution than pet owners, as the latter are not considered to be at risk of contracting Brucellosis from their pets. It should be noted that as with any bacterium, transplant patients, cancer patients, and HIV patients are more vulnerable to Brucellosis and should take extra caution should their pets become infected and avoid direct contact.

Brucellosis can be diagnosed by testing bone marrow and blood samples. Blood tests in a laboratory setting can also detect antibodies formed by the body against the bacteria, indicating the presence of Brucella bacterium. Treatment for Brucellosis can be a trying process. Antibiotics may prove to be effective. The most commonly prescribed are rifampin and doxycycline in combination for a period of six weeks or so. Recovery from Brucellosis may take several months depending on the severity of the case. The good news is that less than two percent of cases result in death.

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