The bacteria infects livestock such as sheep, goats, cattle, deer, elk, and pigs. Humans get the bacteria from infected livestock by:
- Eating or drinking animal products
- Inhaling the bacteria
- Contact through cuts in your skin or fluids in your eye
Rarely, it can pass between people by:
- Breastfeeding—from an infected mother to her baby
- Sexual contact
- A transplant from an infected donor
Your risk may be higher if you:
- Work with livestock, their waste products, bodily fluids, or carcasses
- Eat or drink unpasteurized dairy products
- Eat undercooked meat products
- Live in or travel to places where the bacteria is common
In most cases, symptoms appear within 2-4 weeks after infection. However, symptoms can appear from 5 days to several months after.
Early symptoms may involve:
- General feeling of illness—malaise
- Muscle or joint pain
- Severe headache and backache
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
Brucellosis causes a high fever (104°F-105°F). It goes up in the evening and returns to normal by morning. Evening fevers can also cause severe sweating. This cycle lasts 1-5 weeks. In some people, the fever will return. It may do so once or many times over months or years.
In addition to the list above, late symptoms may involve:
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Belly pain
Serious problems may involve:
- Abscesses within the liver or spleen
- Enlargement of the liver, spleen, or lymph nodes
- Inflammation and infection of organs in the body, such as:
- Scrotal swelling
Women who have the infection early in their pregnancy may have a higher risk of miscarriage.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms, and healthl and travel history.
You may also have:
Brucellosis goes away on its own in most people. Finding it early and starting care will lower the chance of long-term health problems.
- Antibiotics to treat the infection. You may need to take them for up to 6 weeks.
- Surgery to treat abscesses or infections that don't go away after taking antibiotics.
To help lower your chances of brucellosis:
- Avoiding unpasteurized milk and dairy foods. If you aren’t sure if food or drink is safe, avoid it.
- Wearing rubber gloves and goggles when working with livestock, their bodily fluids, or carcasses. Cover open sores on your skin.
- Wearing a protective mask when working with brucellosis cultures.
- Keeping up with livestock vaccines. Talk to a veterinarian or your local health department for help.
- Reviewer: David L. Horn, MD, FACP
- Review Date: 05/2018 -
- Update Date: 05/14/2018 -