Brucellosis, Common In Mammals

Brucellosis is a bacterial infection that is common in sheep, cattle, goats, pigs, and dogs – among others. With this success rate in finding a host in warm-blooded mammals, it is no wonder that human beings can also be infected with strains of brucellosis.


Signs and Symptoms


The signs and symptoms of brucellosis are pretty generic, which is to say they sound like the same symptoms of dozens (or more) other conditions. The list of symptoms includes


  • headaches
  • fever
  • feeling run down
  • muscle pain
  • joint pain
  • fatigue
  • loss of appetite
  • wide-ranging aches and pains


Also, brucellosis can become a persistent illness in which new symptoms appear, some of which can manifest themselves permanently, while other symptoms come and go in unpredictable patterns. These symptoms include:


  • fevers
  • development of arthritis
  • swelling of the heart
  • chronic fatigue
  • depression
  • liver and spleen symptoms, such as swelling
  • neurologic problems

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In domestic animals, brucellosis bacteria are often found in the animal’s milk. As such, the bacteria can be passed along to other animals or to humans by consumption of unpasteurized milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, and other dairy products.


Brucellosis a bacteria, so it is a physical entity that can infect people from other entrance points in the body. As such, the bacteria can also be passed along from one animal to another (including humans) through wounds in the skin or through a passage through mucus membranes. The bacteria can be inhaled, most often, of course, when people are handling animals or animal carcasses. Slaughterhouse workers, veterinarians, meatpacking plant employees, and hunters are among the most common groups susceptible to brucellosis infections. Undercooked meat can also be a source of bacteria.

Potential hosts


Several mammal species can transmit brucellosis bacteria to humans. However, as luck would have it, it is rarely passed along from person to person. It is far more often that the transmission involves one of the following species, each of which carries its species-specific strain of the bacteria.


  • Cattle (bacterial strain: B. abortus)
  • Pigs (B. suis)
  • Dogs (B. canis)
  • Sheep or goats (ovis)
  • Wood rats (neotomae)
  • Seals, sea lions, walruses (pinnipediae)
  • Cetaceans (dolphins, whales, porpoises) (ceti)
  • Common vole (microti)




Since brucellosis occurs in many mammal species, prevention involves careful, safe handling of animals and animal products, such as meat, milk, ice cream, and cheese. Dairy products are especially risky if they are made with unpasteurized milk. Hunters and animal husbandry professionals should wear gloves, protective eye gear, and gowns or aprons.


Diagnosis and Treatment


A diagnosis of brucellosis is confirmed by laboratory analysis of blood samples, bone marrow, or other bodily fluids. Once diagnosed, the physician can prescribe the appropriate antibiotics. Treatment may last for a few weeks to several months depending on the severity of the infection and how early it was detected.


Death rates are low, but not unheard of. Death occurs in less than 2 percent of all cases, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports. 


Call for an appointment


The San Diego internal medicine experts are a phone call away. If you have any of the symptoms listed above or have been in close contact with an infected animal or animal product call Pacific Medical Care at 610-333-8114.


Are you in pain?


The San Diego restorative pain management center at Pacific Medical Care is available to help. Dial 610-33-8114 for an appointment today.

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