Ag Safety and Health September 22, 2016 Print Friendly and PDF

Use the following format to cite this article:

Brucellosis. (2013). Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from


Brucellosis is an infectious disease that can affect cattle, goats, sheep, pigs (including feral swine), and, less commonly, dogs. This disease can also affect humans. Individuals that are at a higher risk of contracting brucellosis include farmers, ranchers, veterinarians, and slaughterhouse workers. Contamination of skin wounds by bacteria can occur in people who work directly with animals. Brucellosis can also be transmitted to humans who come into contact with infected animal products—such as tissue, blood, urine, vaginal discharges, placenta, or abortion products—through breaks in the skin or who drink or eat unpasteurized milk or cheese. Some slaughterhouse workers have contracted the disease by inhaling the bacteria. Note that brucellosis is not transmitted from person to person.

Effects on Human Health

In humans, health effects of brucellosis include, but are not limited to, prolonged influenza-like illness, abdominal pain, chills, back pain, fatigue, headache, weakness, loss of appetite, and weight loss. A fluctuating fever that spikes in the afternoon is also a sign of the disease. In some cases, brucellosis can relapse or become chronic, affecting the heart valves, bones, joints, spleen, and liver.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Since brucellosis is now rare in the United States due to eradication programs, many health care providers have not seen the disease. Thus, a history of livestock exposure and travel to an area where brucellosis is more common are important pieces of information for diagnosis. Physicians can use several laboratory tests (blood culture, urine test, and so on) to diagnose brucellosis. The common treatment for brucellosis is an antibiotic. 


Vaccination is the most effective way of controlling brucellosis among livestock. Farmers and ranchers should manage their herds and identify and treat animals with brucellosis. Anyone working with infected animals should wear personal protective equipment (PPE) such as rubber gloves and face protection. After working with animals, individuals should wash their hands with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds and should sanitize environmental surfaces. Anyone with a cut or open wound should cover the area completely so that it cannot be contaminated with the bacteria. The consumption of raw milk and unpasteurized milk products should be avoided.


Use the following format to cite this article:

Brucellosis. (2013). Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from



Antibiotics for treating human brucellosis. (2012). U.S. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved from

Brucellosis. (2007) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from


Reviewed and Summarized by:
Linda M. Fetzer, Pennsylvania State University –
Glen Blahey, Canadian Agricultural Safety Association
Lynn Z. Blevins, University of Vermont –
Dennis J. Murphy, Pennsylvania State University –
Aaron M. Yoder, University of Nebraska Medical Center -

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.