The symptoms of brucellosis, a zoonotic disease, can be confused with the flu at the beginning stage because of the common signs of fever, cough, muscle and joint pain, and weakness.

The disease is encountered all over the world and is more common in Eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia. According to CDC, more than 500,000 new human cases of brucellosis are reported worldwide each year. However, this number is likely an underestimate as brucellosis cases are underreported and often misdiagnosed because symptoms are nonspecific, physicians may lack awareness, or laboratory capacity for diagnosis is limited.

Brucellosis has several other names along with its clinical naming; brucella disease, Mediterranean fever, Maltese fever, goat fever, or Bang disease. Brucellosis, or brucella disease, is caused by a bacterium of the same name. Brucella bacteria, which infects humans and causes disease, derive from goats, cattle, and sheep. Apart from these animals, brucellosis is also observed in dogs, camels, cows, and pigs. Pasteurization is the process of removing harmful bacteria from possibly infected products, such as raw milk or raw meat, by heating them at very high temperatures. Therefore, it is vital for meat and milk products of the above animals to be pasteurized accordingly to the standards.

Antibiotics are used in the treatment of brucella disease. Patients should bear in mind that brucellosis is a persistent disease. The probability of recurrence after treatment is between 5-15 percent. It is rare for brucellosis to result in death.

Brucella Disease Symptoms

Brucellosis symptoms are often similar to those of the flu. These symptoms appear within 5-30 days after bacterial infection.

The first symptoms are:

  • High fever
  • Cough
  • Weakness
  • Stomach ache
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Headache
  • Night sweats
  • Body and joint pain
  • Back pain

In addition to the symptoms listed above, one may also have the following symptoms, which last for a long time, go away temporarily, and then return. People with chronic brucellosis may continue to have these symptoms for years.

  • Hot flashes
  • Central nervous system inflammation (meningitis or encephalitis)
  • Inflammation of the joint (arthritis)
  • Heart inflammation (endocarditis)
  • Liver inflammation (hepatitis)
  • Inflammation of the testis or scrotum (orchitis)
  • Spleen inflammation (splenomegaly)
  • Psychological changes
  • Extreme fatigue

In the case of pregnancy, Brucella bacteria may cause deformations in the fetus. For the sake of the health of the mother and the baby, the disease must be swiftly diagnosed and treatment must be started.

How Is Brucella Disease Transmitted?

Brucellosis is most common in spring and summer.

So, is brucella contagious?

  • The most common way of transmission of brucellosis is by consuming raw or cooked meat, raw milk, and cheese products made from raw milk.
  • Transmission of bacteria from skin wounds during contact with an infected animal.
  • Entry of Brucella bacteria into the body by breathing (this type of contamination is usually seen in people working in slaughterhouses, farms, laboratories, and alike).
  • Contact with feces of infected animals.

In addition to these, it is extremely uncommon for brucella disease to pass from person to person. One of the ways of transmission from person to person is through blood or tissue transfusion.  Breastfeeding is another way that people can spread disease.

Ways of Preventing Brucella Disease

  • Do not consume dairy products such as milk and cheese, yogurt, or ice cream in case of unconfidence in their pasteurization.
  • Choose medium-well-done meat rather than undercooked meat.
  • If you are a veterinarian or a farmer, work in a laboratory, a slaughterhouse, or a facility that processes meat, you should take the necessary precautions to avoid contracting Brucella. Wearing safety gear, such as gloves, clothing, and eyewear, as well as exercising caution while working, are important.
  • Even if you have no symptoms, visit the doctor as a precaution if you have come into touch with or been around an animal that has brucellosis.

How Is Brucella Diagnosed?

Brucellosis can be difficult to detect, especially in the early stages of the disease, as it shows symptoms similar to the flu. Do not hesitate to consult a doctor if you have symptoms such as high fever, muscle pain, and weakness.

In addition to a physical examination, a blood test is requested. Blood tests, rather via serological analysis or modern methods can identify the type of infection the person suffering. Scientific innovations help Brucella disease clinical diagnosis by targeting the DNA segments specific to Brucella bacteria. This method, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), yields accurate and highly sensitive analytical data on the presence or absence of the pathogen.

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