The number of human cases of the zoonotic infection, brucellosis, has increased in parts of Israel by 83 percent, prompting one physician to call it a “Third world epidemic”.

State of Israel

The Jerusalem Post reports the surge in cases in centered around Beduin inthe South and other Arabs in eastern Jerusalem, Nazareth, Acre and elsewhere in the North.

MK Ahmad Tibi, a physician said, “Just in the last six months, 217 cases were reported. There is no excuse for this negligence, because Israel has a very high level of medical and agricultural know how.”

In addition, hospitalizations for the infection are up 30 percent compared to last year.

Health officials say that experts have been sent to teach the public about how to make milk safe; however, they note, “but they don’t cooperate and listen, and they even hide the products from us, even though we have made it clear that they are causing themselves to get sick.”

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.

The Middle East and North Africa are considered high-risk regions for brucellosis.

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.

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. There is no vaccine available for humans.

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%.

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