It is also called Maltese fever but what is it brucellosis? It is an infectious disease that affects animals but humans can also contract it. We do not hear much about it but it is worth knowing it and understanding what its symptoms are and how it can get to us.
What is brucellosis
This disease is related to the presence of gram negative bacteria that are transmitted from animals both directly and indirectly. Those who are most frequently involved are mostly sheep, cattle and pigs. The most active bacteria in this sense are Brucella abortus, Brucella suis and Brucella melitensis, all belonging to the Brucella genus.
When an animal contracts this disease it has different symptoms, one of the most frequent is thelate abortion which may occur in the final gestation period but not only. The disease can also manifest itself with some inflammation of the testicles which can also cause fertility problems. The symptoms are not always evident, brucellosis can also remain latent and in this case the animals do not show any symptoms.
How brucellosis is transmitted
When an animal has been infected with this disease and is infected, it secretes both from the sexual organs that the pathogen from the mammary glands are therefore able to transmit the disease with their infected sperm or during breastfeeding. In rarer cases, the infection can occur through infected material, through skin lesions or through the mucous membranes.
There are some countries that pay particular attention to this infectious disease and as in the case of Switzerland, they provide for official brucellosis indemnity declarations for cattle, sheep and goats that are subjected to various sample analyzes. .
What is brucellosis for humans
There are many ways in which we too can contract this disease. The subjects most at risk are certainly the people who work closely with this type of animals (breeders, veterinarians, hunters and butchers) because direct contact it is one of the most likely ways to get sick but not the only one. Contagion can occur even if we come into contact with the feces of an infected animal or with its secretions. If we have a small wound and are not careful, we can contract brucellosis even during milking or if we assist with the birth. Precisely during childbirth, the risk increases because the stable environment is filled with microbes and the bacterium can also attack us through conjunctival or respiratory mucosa.
Those who do not work with this type of animals may not even know what brucellosis is but still run a remote risk of getting sick, for example following the ingestion of infected foods, such as fresh unpasteurized milk and its derivatives (fresh cheeses, ice cream, cream and butter). Vegetables can also be vehicles for this disease but only in the rare case in which they have come into contact with the infected urine of an animal. Unfortunately, the brucellae in the urine can live for weeks while temperatures around 60-70 degrees are enough to kill them and they do not resist well even to gastric juices.
How to recognize brucellosis in humans
As for humans, the symptoms are numerous and even different. One of the main ones is fever accompanied by night sweats, inappetence and gastrointestinal disorders. When neglected, it can become serious and chronic, even causing psychological problems, especially of a depressive nature.
Once the brucellae have entered the human body, they go to the attack of the lymph nodes to enter the circulation and spread to other organs. Those who are most often infected are those rich in reticulo-endothelial tissue, such as the liver and spleen.
The fever usually appears later about 10-20 days from infection and it comes and goes until we cure it. There are frequent episodes of profuse sweating, symptoms of weakness and moments of general malaise with pain in the muscles and joints but also loss of appetite, vomiting, constipation or diarrhea or other gastrointestinal problems.
These are the main symptoms but depending on the subject they can vary in shape and intensity.
How brucellosis is treated
The main treatment that is prescribed is that antibiotic which makes symptoms go away within a few weeks that the infected person has no previous health problems. Antibiotics act mainly on fever but must be taken for at least 4 weeks.
Prevention is also very important, insisting on breeding and zootechnical production methods, insisting above all on vaccinations of livestock, on pasteurization or sterilization of milk as well as health checks. Also on the worker awareness side, it is necessary to do a lot, explaining that the sterilization of contaminated material and stables and the killing of infected animals are necessary, but also the simple use of gloves and other protective devices. All these actions have in recent years decreased the cases of "human" brucellosis in Italy and also in other European countries.