Brucellosis is an infectious disease that occurs from contact with animals carrying brucella bacteria.
Cyprus fever; Undulant fever; Gibraltar fever; Malta fever; Mediterranean fever
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. About 100 to 200 cases occur each year. Most cases are caused by the Brucellosis melitensis bacteria.
People working in jobs where they often come in contact with animals or meat -- such as slaughterhouse workers, farmers, and veterinarians -- are at higher risk.
Acute brucellosis may begin with mild flu-like symptoms, or symptoms such as:
- Abdominal pain
- Back pain
- Excessive sweating
- Joint and muscle pain
- Loss of appetite
- Swollen glands
- Weight loss
High fever spikes often occur every afternoon. The name undulant fever is often used to describe this disease because the fever rises and falls in waves.
The illness may be chronic and last for years.
Exams and Tests
The health care provider will examine you and ask about your symptoms. You'll also be asked if you've been in contact with animals or possibly eaten dairy products that were not pasteurized.
Tests that may be done include:
Antibiotics, such as doxycycline, streptomycin, gentamicin, and rifampin, are used to treat the infection and prevent it from coming back. Often, you need to take the drugs for 6 weeks. If there are complications from brucellosis, you will likely need to take the drugs for a longer period.
Symptoms may come and go for years. Also, the illness can come back after a long period of not having symptoms.
Health problems that may result from brucellosis include:
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call for an appointment with your provider if:
- You develop symptoms of brucellosis
- Your symptoms get worse or do not improve with treatment
- You develop new symptoms
Drinking and eating only pasteurized dairy products, such as milk and cheeses, is the most important way to reduce the risk of brucellosis. People who handle meat should wear protective eyewear 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.
Beeching NJ, Madkour MM. Brucellosis. In: Farrar J, Hotez PJ, Junghanss T, Kang G, Lalloo D, White NJ, eds. Manson's Tropical Diseases. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 28.
Gul HC, Erdem H. Brucellosis (Brucella species). In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 228.
Reviewed By:Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency
or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional
should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911
for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they
do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997-A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
The Agency for Health Care Administration (Agency) and this website do not claim the information on, or referred to by, this site is error free. This site may include links to websites of other government agencies or private groups. Our Agency and this website do not control such sites and are not responsible for their content. Reference to or links to any other group, product, service, or information does not mean our Agency or this website approves of that group, product, service, or information.
Additionally, while health information provided through this website may be a valuable resource for the public, it is not designed to offer medical advice. Talk with your doctor about medical care questions you may have.