Brucellosis

A rare infection, contracted from farm animals and dairy products, that may cause recurrent illness

  • Working with farm animals is a risk factor
  • Age, gender, and genetics are not significant factors

Brucellosis is caused by various types of brucella bacteria, which can be transmitted to humans through contact with infected farm animals and in unpasteurized milk and other dairy products. The disease rarely occurs in developed countries, where domestic animals are normally free of the infection.

The symptoms of brucellosis vary considerably from person to person. In some cases, depression and weight loss are the only signs of infection, although many people develop fever with night sweats, tiredness, headache, and pain in the joints. Left untreated, the illness can become persistent, recurring at intervals over months or sometimes years.

What might be done?

A lack of specific symptoms makes brucellosis difficult to diagnose, although the bacteria can be identified by a blood test. It is usually treated with antibiotics, which are sometimes given with corticosteroids. With treatment, most people recover within 2–3 weeks.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

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