Brucellosis is caused by bacteria belonging to Brucella genus. This infectious disease is largely seen only on animals like goats, sheep and camels and human beings get this infection when they consume contaminated products of animals. This infectious disease is common in regions where public health and animal welfare is minimal. Many areas animal vaccination is not given properly and that is the main reason for getting this infection.
Brucellosis is believed to occur from prehistoric time. It was Dr. David Bruce who identified an organism that caused this disease when he collected samples from several patients who died of this infection. Brucellosis is also called as Malta fever, Mediterranean fever and Bang’s disease in many areas.
This disease is caused by Brucelia bacteria which attacks animals. Several kinds of bacteria belonging to the genus Brucella infect animals like cows, goats, camels, sheep and buffaloes. The infectious disease is further transmitted from animals to humans. Among all the species that exist, Brucella melitensis is the one that causes infection directly on the humans.
Transmission of infection from the animals to humans occurs when they consume raw milk from infected animals. It can also spread when they eat unpasteurized milk products from these animals. There is chance for getting infection by direct contact with animals like dogs, goats and sheep. It spreads through saliva or animal excretions. The bacteria enter the body through small cuts or breaks in the skin, exposure of mucus membranes. People who work in veterinary clinics and hospitals have more risk of getting bacterial infection than others.
The bacteria lie within the body for few days or even months (incubation period) during which no symptoms are seen. After the completion of incubation period, people have extensive symptoms resembling febrile illness.
Fever, nausea, vomiting, joint pain, fatigue, sweating, dizziness, irritability, headache, loss of appetite, chest pain, breathing problems, and weight loss are some of the common symptoms of Brucellosis.
Fever may not be continuous but it may relapse after short break. The symptoms may vary with respect to the intensity of illness causing more complications.
It may be difficult for the doctor to make right diagnoses of Brucellosis since the symptoms are often confused with many other diseases. He would collect the complete travel history of the patient with special importance to his exposure to animals. He may do blood profile for detecting the presence of bacteria. He may do X-ray, CT scan or lumbar puncture for detecting the illness.
Antibiotics are given for managing the symptoms of brucellosis. Often two or more kinds of antibiotics are combined for getting good results. Drugs like doxycycline, rifampin, gentamicin, trimethoprim sulfamethoxazole are given in combination based on the health condition and intensity of symptoms.
The affected person should follow the doctor’s instructions in taking full course of antibiotics. In spite of taking good amount of drugs, the rate of relapse is 5-10% for many patients. It may take many weeks or months for complete recovery.
In case of severe complications like liver damage surgery may be done. The bacteria may affect the functions of spleen, liver and other vital organs like heart. One should strictly take medications as per the advice of the doctor to avoid relapse.
In severe cases, Brucellosis can cause arthritis, cardiovascular diseases, hepatitis, colitis and pneumonia.
All the animals should be properly vaccinated to prevent infection to humans. This should be done as combined effort of animal welfare departments and public health organizations. You can reduce of risk of getting transmitted with infection by consuming boiled milk and by eating pasteurized dairy products.
Avoid eating uncooked meat and avoid direct exposure to bodily fluids of animals. Those working with animal care centers should wear protective gloves and masks to prevent any infection.