Health officials in Dallas County, TX have reported a record number of 13 brucellosis infections in residents this year to date.
All cases reported consuming unpasteurized cheese brought into the U.S. from Mexico by friends or relatives, unpasteurized cheese while traveling in Mexico, or unidentified cheese products from local street vendors.
Affected patients in 2016 have ranged from 6 to 80 years of age, and typically required inpatient evaluation and treatment initiation.
Typically, Dallas sees two to six brucellosis cases annually.
Brucellosis is a contagious disease of animals that also affects humans. The disease is also known as Bang’s Disease. In humans, it’s known as Undulant Fever.
Brucellosis is one of the most serious diseases of livestock, considering the damage done by the infection in animals. Decreased milk production, weight loss, loss of young, infertility, and lameness are some of the affects on animals.
The Brucella species are named for their primary hosts: Brucella melitensis is found mostly is goats, sheep and camels, B. abortus is a pathogen of cattle, B. suis is found primarily in swine and B. canis is found in dogs.
There are two common ways people get infected with brucellosis. First, individuals that work with infected animals that have not been vaccinated against brucellosis. This would include farmers, slaughterhouse workers and veterinarians.
They get infected through direct contact or aerosols produced by the infected animal tissue. B. abortus and B. suis are most common.
The second way is through ingesting unpasteurized dairy products. This is seen in people who travel to areas of the Middle East or Latin America (B. melitensis) where brucellosis is endemic in ovine and bovine animals.
Brucellosis is also an occupational hazard to laboratory workers who inappropriately handle specimens or have an accident or spill. Brucella is highly infectious in the aerosolized form.
If someone gets infected with Brucella, the incubation period is about 2-3 weeks, though it could be months. Fever, night sweats, severe headache and body aches and other non-specific symptoms may occur.
Acute and chronic brucellosis can lead to complications in multiple organ systems. The skeletal, central nervous system, respiratory tract, the liver, heart, gastrointestinal and genitourinary tracts can all be affected. Untreated brucellosis has a fatality rate of 5%.