Brucellosis

Cause: Bacteria in the genus Brucella.

Illness and treatment: Symptoms include fever, profuse sweating, fatigue, loss of appetite, chills, weight loss, headache, and joint pain. Treatment is with antibiotics.

Sources: Infection results from contact through breaks in the skin with animal tissues (particularly placentas or aborted fetuses) and animal fluids, or by consuming unpasteurized dairy products from infected species (mainly cattle, goats, sheep and swine) in endemic countries. Airborne infection can occur in laboratories. Prior to 1996, strains of Brucella used in animal vaccine had a greater risk for causing disease in humans if unintentionally injected.

Prevention: Veterinarians, farmers and hunters should wear gloves when handling sick or dead animals or when assisting an animal giving birth. Laboratory workers should handle all specimens under appropriate biosafety conditions.

Recent Washington trends: Although brucellosis has been eradicated from cattle in the state since 1988, there are 0 to 3 reports of human brucellosis infections each year, primarily due to consumption of raw dairy products in foreign countries.

Purpose of Reporting and Surveillance

  • To assist in the diagnosis and treatment of cases
  • To identify potentially exposed health care and laboratory personnel and to provide counseling
  • To identify sources of transmission (e.g., an infected animal or a contaminated unpasteurized dairy product) and to prevent further transmission from such sources
  • To raise the index of suspicion of a possible bioterrorism event if no natural exposure source is identified

Legal Reporting Requirements

  • Health care providers: Notifiable to local health jurisdiction within 24 hours
  • Health care facilities: Notifiable to local health jurisdiction within 24 hours
  • Laboratories: Brucella species notifiable to local health jurisdiction within 24 hours; specimen submission required - cultures (2 business days). Any other specimens with results indicating Brucella infection should be submitted too (see Sections 3 and 4)
  • Veterinarians: Suspected human cases notifiable within 24 hours to the local health jurisdiction; animal cases notifiable to Washington State Department of Agriculture (see: https://app.leg.wa.gov/wac/default.aspx?cite=16-70)
  • Local health jurisdictions: Notifiable to DOH Communicable Disease Epidemiology (CDE) within 7 days of case investigation completion or summary information required within 21 days. If bioterrorism is suspected, immediately report the case to DOH: 1-877-539-4344 or 206-418-5500