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Brucellosis

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Brucellosis is a rare but serious bacterial disease that has been traced back to the people of Ancient Rome, and is still in existence all over the world today. It is passed from animals to humans usually via contaminated cheese, milk, and sometimes meats. While Brucellosis can be treated, relapses and chronic conditions stemming from this bacterial disease are common, usually resulting in life long effects.

BRUCELLOSIS SYMPTOMS

Symptoms of Brucellosis include an undulating fever, which rises and falls throughout the day reaching over 104 degrees Fahrenheit in the late afternoon, fatigue, joint and bone pain, weakness, chills, muscle pain, back, pain, severe headaches, and periods of sweating.

BRUCELLOSIS CAUSES

Brucellosis is caused by a bacterium. While it is most common in the Mediterranean Basin, cases can be found all over the world, including the United States. Contaminated dairy products are the most well known cause of the transfer of this disease. A vaccine for animals was developed some time ago, but there is no human vaccine for the bacteria. It is possible to inhale the spores which cause Brucellosis, although this type of infection is much rarer. Direct contact can spread the disease from animal to human. However, the direct contact must be passed from the blood stream, semen, or other body fluid directly into another body fluid of the newly infected human. It is not typically passed through normal interaction such as people have with their pets. Slaughterhouse workers are more prone to picking up the bacteria than anyone. While it is not passed from human to human, a few rare cases of passing the disease to an infant during birth have been recorded. Sexual activity, bone marrow transplants, and blood to blood infection can spread the disease form human to human.
Brucellosis
Image: Brucellosis

BRUCELLOSIS RISK FACTOR

Risk factors for developing Brucellosis include the consumption of raw or undercooked meats, the consumption of raw dairy products, animal related occupations, hunting, and international travel, especially to the Middle East or other Mediterranean destination.

BRUCELLOSIS TEST

A test of the blood or bone marrow can confirm a suspicion of Brucellosis. The symptoms presented often are enough for a physician to suspect that the illness is Brucellosis, as a significantly fluctuating fever is rare except in this particular disease in combination with the other symptoms. X-rays can be used to determine sudden arthritic changes in the joints and a urinalysis can be used to determine other factors such as the Brucellosis bacteria in the blood stream. A spinal tap can used to rule out meningitis and encephalitis.

BRUCELLOSIS SIDE EFFECTS

Complications from Brucellosis typically only affect one organ of the body. Complications may include inflammation and infection of the testicles, osteoarthritis, endocarditis which is an infection of the heart’s inner lining, hepatitis, spontaneous abortion, and a central nervous system infection like meningitis or encephalitis. Endocarditis is considered the most serious of all the possible complications.

BRUCELLOSIS TREATMENT

Treatment usually begins with two types of antibiotics, usually prescribed for six weeks at a time. These antibiotics attack the bacteria which cause Brucellosis. Bed rest is recommended for those infected with Brucellosis, although even with bed rest, it may take months for the first symptoms to begin to clear up. Activity tends to make it more difficult for the patient’s body to heal as well as increase the severity of symptoms. Most patients require several round of treatment before they begin to feel better, but relapsing is considered normal and often attacks more harshly after the first infection. This is a very difficult infection to get rid of, and many people fight the disease for the rest of their life. Unfortunately, it is a disease that can linger longer the more often a relapse occurs. The body can eventually develop a tolerance to the antibiotics which can make it increasingly more difficult to rid the body of the bacteria.

Coping with Brucellosis is like coping with any other long term illness or disease. The patient can only take it one day at a time and take extra good care of themselves, especially nutritionally. Good nutrition and ample rest can often help speed the healing process. Due to the great difficulty of ridding the body of this disease, it is recommended that those in high risk arenas take precautions in order to prevent the illness rather than attempt to rid the body of it.
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