What does brucellosis do to humans?

            Eating food does not only help to satisfy human hunger, but also helps them to fuel their body throughout the day. While in general eating food especially packed with vitamins and minerals and as according to the food pyramid, food safety should also be emphasised when a person chooses to eat it. There are many kinds of diseases revolving around food consumption that are not clean and hygienic. In medicine, there is one kind of infection that seems rare nowadays but is still around and possible to affect humans; brucellosis.

            Brucellosis is a disease caused by bacteria called the Brucella species. Common species that have been found to cause occasional infections are Brucella abortus, Brucella melitensis, Brucella suis and Brucella canis. These bacteria can be found in many animals such as cattle, sheep, goats, cows, pigs and dogs. Most common sources of infection brucellosis in humans are farm animals and raw dairy products. Although at times, animals such as horses and chicken may also have been infected and humans may also catch brucellosis from these animals.

            People can catch brucellosis in many ways. The most common way that has been known is by eating or drinking that has been contaminated by the bacteria, especially drinking milk that has not been pasteurised or dairy products made from such milk. Eating raw or undercooked meat may also increase risk of being infected by brucellosis. Another way a person can be infected by the bacteria is when a person’s wound is exposed to the brucellosis bacteria contained in animal excretions or fluids from the infected animals. A person may also get such an infection when breathing in the bacteria such as those working in slaughterhouses, meatpackers, farmers, livestock producers or veterinarians. Rarely can a person catch brucellosis from another person.

            What happens when brucellosis affects humans? Most importantly, what does brucellosis do to humans? When the Brucella species enters the human body, it will travel to the intestine and be transported to the lymphatic system. It is then replicated there and even some in the liver, spleen, kidney, breast tissue or joints. The replicated bacteria then trigger the body’s immune system, causing humans to have many symptoms that could last for months, some may be even up for years. Initial symptoms can be similar such as in flu-disease like fever, chills, severe headache, joint pain with or without back pain and fatigue. Later on, it could evolve to weight loss, abdominal pain, weakness, insomnia and emotional instability. Symptoms may appear suddenly in 1 or 2 days after exposure to the bacteria or may precipitate gradually over several weeks.

            Since symptoms of brucellosis can be quite subtle and be confused by many other infections caused by food, it is important to not self-diagnose and to get yourself checked by physicians once they spot symptoms associated with it. A person with brucellosis symptoms and history of indulging unpasteurised milk or dairy products, having eaten raw or undercooked meat and working closely with farm animals, should get themselves to the nearest healthcare facility for further investigation and treatment.

            A person infected by brucellosis is usually given long course antibiotics of 6 to 8 weeks. Most patients recover in 2 to 3 weeks with variable results when not receiving treatment and full recovery can be expected after 3 to 6 months when the right treatment is received. There are no vaccines that are available to prevent humans from catching brucellosis. Thus, preventative measures should be taken in order to minimise possible infections. This includes avoiding contact with livestock and wild animals that have been known to be infected by the brucellosis bacteria, wearing protective gear when working with animals, covering wounds before touching animals, eating cooked meat and not to eat or drink unpasteurized milk and its product. Get Vaccinated.


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