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Gastrointestinal & Zoonoses

Brucella

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Epidemiology

Brucellosis is transmitted to humans from sheep and goats (B. melitensis), cattle (B. abortus) and pigs (B. suis), through direct or indirect contact with infected animals.

The disease has largely been eradicated from northern European animal populations (although occasional sporadic outbreaks still occur), with most cases being acquired abroad. Those occupationally exposed to infected animals, i.e. farmers, veterinarians, slaughterhouse workers are at greatest risk as well as consumers of unpasteurised milk (Brucella spp. are killed by pasteurisation) and some fresh unpasteurised cheese. No person-to-person transmission occurs (except between mother and child). Cases are rare in the UK.

Main clinical features

These can be variable, but the “classic” presentation (about 50% of cases) involves acute, often severe, fever and general malaise sometimes associated with a cough and/or joint and/or testicular pain. However, Brucellosis may affect several organs and tissues. Recovery may occur spontaneously, but may be followed by long-lasting or recurrent episodes of ill-defined malaise.

Incubation period

Between 5 and 60 days, although presentation of the chronic form may take very much longer.

Surveillance

Voluntary laboratory reports.

Annual Surveillance Tables