Brucellosis is a zoonosis – an animal infection that can spread to humans – caused by the
Brucella bacteria which are transmitted to humans by infected animals such as cows, sheep, goats, pigs, camels, bison, or dogs.
Brucella bacteria are found worldwide. Travellers are at risk when coming into contact with infected animals or contaminated dairy and meat products through:
Ingestion by eating or drinking contaminated milk products.
Skin lesions where the bacteria invade the blood stream; usually affects meat packers, abattoir workers, veterinarians, and hunters.
Inhalation, although not common, mostly affects abattoir employees and lab workers doing research on the bacteria.
Usually symptoms appear between 5 to 60 days, sometimes longer, and include fever, headaches, sweats, back pain and general weakness. In more severe cases, the bacteria attack the central nervous system and the heart, and patients suffer from chronic joint pain, fatigue and recurring fevers. Treatment includes antibiotics.
Avoid unpasteurized milk products, including raw cheese and ice cream. If you are not sure whether the product is pasteurized or not, avoid eating it.
Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently with soap and water or if not available, use an alcohol based hand sanitizer after coming into contact with animals.
There is no preventive medication or vaccination available against Brucellosis for humans.
Information last updated: January 2020
Gotuzzo E, Pappas G. Brucellosis. In: Guerrant, R; Walker D; Weller P, eds. Tropical Infectious Diseases. 3rd ed. New York: Saunders Elsevier; 2011: 271-275.
Pappas G. Brucellosis. In: McGill, A; Ryan, E; Hill, D; Solomon, T, eds. Hunter's Tropical Medicine and Emerging Infectious Diseases. 9th ed. New York: Saunders Elsevier; 2013: 577-579.
Wertheim, Heiman; Horby, Peter; Woodall, John, eds. Atlas of Human Infectious Diseases. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell; 2012. 273 p.