Medical Encyclopedia


Medical Encyclopedia

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Contents of this page:



Alternative Names    Return to top

Rock fever; Cyprus fever; Undulant fever; Gibraltar fever; Malta fever

Definition    Return to top

Brucellosis is an infectious disease caused by contact with animals carrying a bacteria called Brucella.

Causes    Return to top

Brucella can infect cattle, goats, camels, dogs, and pigs. The bacteria can spread to humans if you come in contact with infected meat or the placenta of infected animals, or if you eat or drink unpasteurized milk or cheese.

Brucellosis is rare in the United States (except in the western states).

Approximately 100 - 200 cases occur in the U.S. each year. People working in jobs requiring frequent contact with animals or meat -- such as slaughterhouse workers, farmers, and veterinarians -- are at high risk.

Symptoms    Return to top

Acute brucellosis may begin with mild flu-like symptoms or symptoms such as:

Classically, fever spikes occur every afternoon to levels around 104 degrees Fahrenheit. "Undulant" fever derives its name from this up-and-down fever.

Additional symptoms that may be associated with this disease:

The illness may be chronic and persist for years.

Exams and Tests    Return to top

This disease may also alter the results of the following tests:

Treatment    Return to top

Antibiotics are used to treat and prevent relapse of infection. Longer courses of therapy may be needed if there are complications.

Outlook (Prognosis)    Return to top

Relapse may occur, and symptoms may persist for years. As with tuberculosis, reactivation can occur after a long period of time.

Possible Complications    Return to top

When to Contact a Medical Professional    Return to top

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you develop symptoms of brucellosis.

Also, call if your symptoms worsen or do not improve with treatment, or if new symptoms develop.

Prevention    Return to top

DrinkingĀ and eating only pasteurized cheeses and milkĀ is the most important preventative measure. People who handle meat should wear protective glasses and clothing and protect skin breaks from infection. Detecting infected animals controls the infection at its source. Vaccination is available for cattle, but not humans.

Update Date: 8/16/2007

Updated by: Arnold L. Lentnek, MD, Division of Infectious Disease, Kennestone Hospital, Marietta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

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