Brucellosis

(Undulant Fever; Bang’s Disease; Malta Fever)

Definition

Brucellosis is a rare bacterial disease that causes fevers to come and go.

Causes

Brucellosis is caused by specific bacteria that infects domesticated animals. It can be spread to humans through:
  • Drinking unpasteurized milk from infected cows, sheep, or goats
  • Eating dairy foods from infected cows, sheep, or goats
  • Inhaling the bacteria
  • Breastfeeding—passed from an infected mother to an infant
  • Sexual transmission
  • Tissue transplantation

Risk Factors

Factors that increase your risk of getting brucellosis include:
  • Working with domesticated animals and livestock, especially sheep, goats, cattle, deer, elk, and pigs, or their waste products, bodily fluids, or carcasses
  • Eating undercooked meat products
  • Living in or travel to high-risk areas
  • Sex: male, possibly due to occupational exposure among farmers, ranchers, veterinarians, people working in tanneries, and slaughterhouse workers

Symptoms

Symptoms of brucellosis usually appear within two weeks of infection. Symptoms can appear from five days to several months after infection.In the early stage, symptoms may include:
  • Discomfort
  • Sluggishness
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Severe headache and backache
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Rash
  • Abdominal fullness or discomfort
  • Joint pain
As it progresses, brucellosis causes a high fever (104° F to 105° F). This fever occurs in the evening along with severe sweating. It becomes normal or near normal in the morning, and usually begins again at night.This on and off fever usually lasts 1 to 5 weeks. After 5 weeks, symptoms usually improve or disappear for two days to two weeks. Then, the fever returns. In some patients, this fever returns only once. In others, the disease becomes chronic, and the fever returns, lessens, and then returns again over months or years.In later stages, brucellosis can cause:
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal pain
  • Headache
  • Backache
  • Joint pain
  • Weakness
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
Patients usually recover within 2 to 5 weeks. Rarely, complications can develop. These may include:
  • Abscesses within the liver or spleen
  • Enlargement of the liver, spleen, or lymph nodes
  • Inflammation and infection of organs in the body, such as:
    • Heart— endocarditis
    • Brain and brain lining— meningitis
    • Bones— osteomyelitis , especially the spine
    • Lungs—bronchitis and pneumonia
    • Eyes—uveitis, choroiditis,and papilledema
  • Scrotal swelling
Endocarditis
Bacterial endocarditis, aortic valve
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
Brucellosis is also believed to cause a high rate of miscarriage during early pregnancy in infected women.

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