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

Alternative Names:

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

Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

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.


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

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Excessive sweating
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Abdominal pain
  • Back pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Joint pain

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.

Signs and tests:

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


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

Support Groups:

Expectations (prognosis):

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


Calling your health care provider:

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.


Drinking and eating only pasteurized cheeses and milk 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.

Review Date: 8/16/2007
Reviewed By: Arnold L. Lentnek, MD, Division of Infectious Disease, Kennestone Hospital, Marietta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

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.

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